Yacolt man pleads guilty to assault

He beat teen he accused of raping underage female relative

By Paris Achen, Columbian courts reporter

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A Yacolt man was sentenced Monday to four years in prison for assaulting a 17-year-old that he accused of raping his underage female relative.

Joseph A. "Joey" Mitchell, 19, pleaded guilty Monday in Clark County Superior Court to second-degree assault in exchange for the dismissal of a first-degree assault charge, which would have carried a longer prison sentence.

"You could have been facing a homicide just as easily," said Judge Scott Collier. "… That's why you can't take the matter into your own hands."

The Clark County Sheriff's Office has investigated the rape allegation and referred the case to the Prosecuting Attorney's Office for a charging decision, said sheriff's Detective Sgt. Kevin Allais.

During Monday's court hearing, Mitchell also pleaded guilty to two counts of bail jumping related to his failure to show up at two court appearances, Nov. 27 and Dec. 18. He also agreed to pay more than $18,000 in restitution to the victim.

The assault happened late June 23 or early June 24, soon after Mitchell and the 17-year-old victim had attended a party near Fargher Lake, said Senior Deputy Prosecutor Kasey Vu. Mitchell, the victim and Mitchell's friend went to a Chevron gas station at 16 N.W. 13th Ave. in Battle Ground, where they were smoking marijuana together, Vu said. After hearing about the rape allegation, Mitchell punched the victim repeatedly in the face, slammed his head into a wall and kicked him in the head until he was unconscious, Vu said.

"Regardless of whether (the rape allegation) is true or not, that was not the right reaction," Vu said.

Before driving away, Mitchell said, he turned the victim on his side so he wouldn't choke on his own blood.

The attack broke multiple bones in the 17-year-old's face and caused a traumatic brain injury for which he continues to receive medical treatment, Vu said.

"(He) will need therapy for years to come," Vu said.

Senior Deputy Prosecutor Camara Banfield, head of the prosecutor's Child Justice Center, said she was not in her office Monday and could not respond to questions about whether her office had received the sheriff's report on the rape allegation or when a charging decision might be made.

"He basically took the law into his own hands," Mitchell's attorney, Jack Peterson, said in court Monday.

"It doesn't make (the assault) right, but it does make more sense," Peterson added later.