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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Spokane County judge denies prison time compensation to three men

Three men whose convictions for drug-related crimes were thrown out after they spent four years in prison are not entitled to compensation by the state, a Spokane County judge has ruled. Robert Larson, Tyler Gassman and Paul Statler sued the state in January 2014 and sought about $680,000 under a law written to compensate prisoners who were wrongfully jailed. The three men were convicted of charges including assault, robbery and drive-by-shooting stemming from drug-related activity in April 2008 and have maintained their innocence.

Wrongful imprisonment claims fail before Spokane judge

Three men who say they were wrongfully convicted and imprisoned for a drug-related robbery from April 2008 they did not commit lost a bid for compensation under a state law after a four-day trial in January.

Men sue Washington state for prison time compensation

Three men who spent more than four years behind bars based chiefly on a recanted confession will try to persuade a Spokane jury to compensate them for more than $680,000. Robert Larson, Tyler Gassman and Paul Statler sued the state last year, citing a law passed just two years ago that enables wrongfully convicted defendants to seek damages for time spent behind bars. The men were found guilty of charges including robbery, assault and drive-by shooting stemming from a violent drug-related incident in April 2008. But that conviction was based on information from jailhouse informant Anthony Kongchunji who later admitted to falsely implicating the three men to avoid more jail time.

Shawn Vestal: Key witness left out of sheriff’s inquiry

An internal affairs investigation into the work of a Spokane County sheriff’s detective – who helped convict three men who were imprisoned for years before their convictions were thrown out – has found he failed to file reports properly, but clears him of the most serious misconduct accusations. Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich said the investigation was a thorough attempt to examine the claims made about Sgt. Doug Marske, who now heads up the department’s Major Crimes Unit. But it did not satisfy critics, who questioned the independence of the investigation, conducted by a longtime colleague of Marske, and who criticized the report for failing to interview a key witness who was allegedly coerced by Marske into not testifying on behalf of one of the defendants.

Shawn Vestal: Sgt. Doug Marske, Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich step up

When three Spokane men were released from prison and exonerated of felony charges associated with a drug robbery, their defense attorneys took a lot of the heat from the judge. But it was Sheriff’s Department investigators, and Sgt. Doug Marske in particular, who came in for pointed criticism from others. According to the exonerated men, their attorneys and the team that eventually won the men’s freedom, Marske pressed the case solely on the word of an unreliable informant who got a sweetheart deal; he and prosecutors failed to consider exonerative possibilities and changed details in their allegations when the facts became unfriendly, according to this critique of the case.

Judge vacates convictions in disputed robbery

Family members gasped with joy and wept Friday as a judge threw out the disputed robbery convictions of three Spokane men who have argued for years that they were framed by a snitch who was trying to spare himself and his brother from longer prison terms.

Court upends fines put on prosecutors

The Washington Supreme Court has erased penalties levied against prosecutors who changed the date of a suspected robbery on the day the case was set for trial. The unanimous court ruling Thursday is the latest twist in the case of three men who were convicted of a home-invasion robbery and drive-by shooting only to have another man say after the trial that it was he who had committed the crime and then helped implicate the other three men. The case stemmed from a robbery and drive-by shooting trial against Tyler W. Gassman, Robert E. Larson and Paul E. Statler.

Robbery, shooting convictions upheld

In a split decision with a strongly worded dissent, state appellate judges on Tuesday upheld the robbery and drive-by shooting convictions of three Spokane-area men even after someone later confessed to helping frame them for crimes they didn’t commit. In a 2-1 decision, the Division III Court of Appeals upheld the 2009 convictions of Paul E. Statler, Robert E. Larson and Tyler W. Gassman. Attorneys for the three men asked for new trials after another man, Anthony Kongchunji, apologized in writing for conspiring with another defendant to blame Gassman, Statler and Larson for robbery and drive-by shooting.

Controversial convictions upheld

In a split decision with a strongly worded dissent, local appellate judges decided 2-1 today to uphold the convictions of three men even after someone later confessed to helping frame them for crimes they didn't commit.

Court upholds prosecutorial sanction

Appellate judges on Thursday upheld a $2,000 sanction levied against the Spokane County Prosecutor’s Office for how it handled the trial of three men convicted of robbery and drive-by shooting – a case that a main witness later claimed was a set-up. Superior Court Judge Tari Eitzen earlier said that the $8,000 she levied against the prosecutor’s office was the first major sanction she imposed in her career. Eitzen fined Deputy Prosecutor Eugene Cruz after he waited until the day the trial was set to begin to change the date of the alleged offense from April 15 to April 17, 2008.

New trial denied in robbery

Now three sets of parents are hoping for successful appeals as their sons await prison terms that could last until middle age, their convictions based largely on testimony from a jailhouse snitch. “Another black eye for justice,” Rick Larson said Wednesday after Superior Court Judge Michael Price denied a request for a new trial for his son, Robert Larson. “When a prosecutor can stand in court and lie time after time after time, where is the justice in that?

Judge denies new trial in robbery, shooting

A request for a new trial was denied Tuesday in a case that resulted in the convictions of three people, an $8,000 sanction against prosecutors and allegations of misconduct against attorneys on both sides. Spokane County Superior Court Judge Michael Price ruled that 22-year-old Tyler W. Gassman should not receive a new trial even after a key witness changed his story and said he lied to try to improve his own case.

Briefs: City to provide police defense

The city of Spokane will provide legal protection for nine members of its police force involved in a lawsuit over a mentally ill man who died after being detained by police three years ago. The family of Otto Zehm filed a federal civil rights lawsuit earlier this month, naming officers at the scene and the department’s acting chief in claims stemming from Zehm’s death three days after he was beaten and Tasered by police at a North Side convenience store.

Star witness in robbery case was trio’s getaway driver

The state is hanging its felony case in the armed robbery of two Spokane drug dealers on an 18-year-old OxyContin addict who borrowed his mother’s pickup to serve as the getaway driver for the April 2008 heist. Matthew Dunham, 17 at the time of the robbery, is the state’s star witness in the trial of Tyler W. Gassman, Robert E. Larson and Paul E. Statler, who have pleaded innocent.