Webster sentenced to minimum of 20 years, 5 months

Kristin M. Kraemer, Herald staff writerJuly 31, 2009 

KENNEWICK -- David Webster will be 80 before he even gets the chance to walk out of prison a free man.

Thursday, Webster argued that his rights have been violated and he's been deprived "of life and liberty" since he was first accused of raping his Franklin County cellmate in September 2003.

But Judge Cameron Mitchell -- clearly annoyed with Webster's disruptive behavior and constant interruptions -- said everything had been fair and done by the book since the case was first charged four years ago. And because of that and Webster's conviction of second-degree rape, Webster deserved 20 years and five months in prison, the judge said.

The sentence at the high end of the range was appropriate "considering the (criminal) history that's been provided and what appears to this court to be a lack of concern for the rules of court and the rules of society," Mitchell said, before Webster again cut him off to rant about the elements of the current case and his 2003 conviction on unrelated charges.

Webster is already serving 26 years on that case. The new sentence will start only after that term is completed.

He was given 760 days credit for time he's been in custody while the case was pending. His ultimate release from prison is up to the state's Indeterminate Sentence Review Board, since this was a sex crime and the maximum term is life behind bars.

This is a second strike for Webster under the Washington "three strikes" law.

Assistant Attorney General Melanie Tratnik asked for 23 years and four months based on Webster's criminal history dating to 1986 in Arkansas and what she said was the improbability of him ever being rehabilitated. She said the time was warranted because of the "brutality and sadistic nature of the rape" and Webster's disrespect to the justice system and court procedures.

Webster objected to all the evidence in the current case and references to his troubled past. He was 16 when he first entered the judicial system and has spent most of his time in custody for violent crimes.

"I'm contesting everything that the state has put on for a number of reasons, but for the main reason that the state has no authoritative power in this proceeding to even dig up my past," he said. "It violates my Fourth Amendment right to search and seizure."

Webster spoke through most of the 11/2-hour hearing and made sure that his theatrics were captured by the television cameras.

"A good lawyer be able to try evidence on television," he said, facing several members of the media while arguing to get his restraints removed.

He later said the conduct of all involved in the judicial process has been "universally outrageous."

"Mr. Webster is a champion for the people. That's why I do this," he said. "I love the people, so I sacrifice myself."

The courtroom was filled with 10 armed officers, from the state Department of Corrections to the Franklin County Sheriff's Office to court security.

Webster represented himself in the Franklin County Superior Court trial and on Thursday often switched between first- and third-person references while reversing roles.

"I'm not signing any of these documents because that would be signing away my life," Webster said about the judgment forms. "Yes, I will not be signing my client's rights away."

And when told he needed to be fingerprinted, he said, "Well, your honor, that is an order that I will not instruct my client to participate in."

Webster told the court he plans to appeal the verdict, and said he believes he will be cleared in this case and his conviction for second-degree assault and solicitation to commit first-degree murder.

It was just days after another Franklin County jury convicted him of assaulting a woman and trying to hire an undercover cop to kill her that Webster raped a man who was locked down with him overnight.

Webster claimed it was consensual sex and that he'd been set up by his cellmate in a plot against the county to get money.

The man, now 31, told jurors Webster threatened to kill him and his family if he resisted. He believed that if he fought back or called for help from the jail guards, it would be too late once help arrived.

The man is not named under a Herald policy not to identify people who report being sexually assaulted.

Jurors deadlocked 9-3 on two additional rape charges.

The victim did not attend Thursday's hearing. He told a community corrections officer preparing a report for Webster's sentencing that he attends weekly counseling sessions, experiences "flashbacks" and recurring nightmares, and is "frequently overcome by a debilitating apprehension" when he travels to unfamiliar areas.

Because of that, the man now requires a "personal protection service animal to accompany him in the community. He said the dog helps him when he becomes anxious in the community," the report said.

Webster will return to court in a few weeks to discuss whether he must pay restitution to cover the victim's counseling and any other issues.

-- Kristin M. Kraemer: 582-1531; kkraemer@tricityherald.com

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