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News / Clark County News

Jury convicts assault suspect in three strikes case

By Laura McVicker
Published: April 14, 2010, 12:00am

A jury on Wednesday found a Vancouver man guilty of second-degree assault for threatening his longtime girlfriend with a knife, a conviction that could result in life in prison under Washington’s three strikes law.

The panel of eight women and four men convicted Dion Ward, who turned 44 last week, of second-degree assault, among other charges.

Sentencing was set for May 7.

At that time, Clark County Deputy Prosecutor Jeff Holmes will seek to have Ward sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of release under Washington’s law for persistent offenders. Ward’s first two strikes are for second-degree assault with sexual motivation in 1999 and indecent liberties in 2000, both relating to molestation of young girls he knew.

Prior to sentencing, defense attorney Lee Baker plans to investigate whether the indecent liberties conviction does, in fact, count as a strike. There’s dispute over whether the crime was considered a strike at the time of conviction.

“At this time, it appears it’s his third strike,” Holmes said outside the courthouse after hearing the verdict.

After hearing testimony for two days in Clark County Superior Court Judge Barbara Johnson’s courtroom, jurors deliberated for more than three hours before rendering a verdict just after 1:30 p.m. Wednesday. They also convicted Ward of felony harassment, tampering with a witness, third-degree malicious mischief and several domestic violence court-order violations relating to the incident.

During trial, Holmes had alleged that an intoxicated Ward became angry at his girlfriend during an argument the night of Dec. 18, 2009, in which she told him she wanted to leave the house. They lived together in the 15200 block of Southeast Fourth Street.

That’s when Ward grabbed the 42-year-old woman by the shoulders, hit her in the face and knocked her to the ground. Standing over her and brandishing a pocket knife, he threatened to kill her, Holmes said.

She pleaded with him to give her the knife and he relented. She ran to the bathroom, locked herself inside, threw the knife out the window and called 911.

Baker had tried to argue Ward wasn’t making a threat with the knife, considering the weapon was folded and still in its case. He also pointed out the victim had testified she didn’t believe Ward would actually harm her.

However, Holmes presented a 911 tape and police testimony that showed threats were made by Ward while he was armed with a deadly weapon, which qualifies as second-degree assault in Washington.