Man found guilty of spitting on officer

By Paula Horton, Tri-City HeraldNovember 10, 2012 

A 34-year-old former Tri-City man who represented himself at trial was found guilty by a Benton County Superior Court jury of spitting in the face of a corrections officer.

Brandon L. Vanwinkle, who lived in Lacey but was in the Benton County jail after being arrested on warrants, was convicted of custodial assault for the July 27 incident.

Vanwinkle's trial started Monday with jury selection. The state called five witnesses to testify and Vanwinkle called just one before resting his case Thursday morning.

"I have no other witnesses on the list because they were all objected (to by the court)," Vanwinkle said when Judge Spanner asked if he was going to call anyone else.

The jury began deliberations just after 10 a.m. Thursday and said they had a verdict just before 2 p.m. Sentencing is next Thursday.

Vanwinkle assaulted Sgt. Dennis Schaefer when corrections officers tried to move him to a more secure pod after he allegedly destroyed jail property, and spit and threw urine at other inmates, court documents said.

Because of Vanwinkle's behavior in the jail and previous court appearances, extra security was in the courtroom during the trial, including two plain-clothes officers sitting in the gallery to appear as if they were members of the public watching the case.

During his closing arguments, Vanwinkle told the jury of four women and eight men that he took it upon himself to try his case because he's the one who's been in the jail for more than four months and knows what's going on.

"I think I clearly showed you guys the misconsistency in all these officers' statements in what they've done," Vanwinkle said. "I have made my case beyond a reasonable doubt that the officers are back there creating lawless acts and making accusations about inmates."

Vanwinkle said he wanted to present his case about the corruption and fraud in the jail and the county, but before the trial started Judge Spanner said he was limited to evidence and testimony only about the July 27 spitting incident.

Outside of the presence of the jury, Vanwinkle earlier this week repeatedly commented about how he worked for the federal government and had been conducting a 16-year undercover investigation on the county court and jail system. He also often said judges, prosecutors and jail staff were going to federal prison.

He also referred to federal indictments against prosecutors and judges during his closing argument, saying, "You will soon know who Brandon Vanwinkle is. It's coming to you soon. Pay attention."

Deputy Prosecutor Kristin McRoberts told the jury that the evidence in the case was overwhelming and there was no reason to doubt the credibility of the five corrections officers who testified.

"I would ask you to simply use common sense," she said. "Your common sense tells you there's not a massive conspiracy going on here to convict the defendant of custodial assault."

Vanwinkle argued during his 15-minute closing statement that the state didn't prove its case because McRoberts didn't present any exhibits -- no pictures or video proof -- to back up the allegations.

"I'm just trying to show that I showed you guys, without any witnesses, I destroyed the state's witnesses. I destroyed them," he said.

He then held up a folder full of papers and said, "This was all my evidence I didn't get to use. I didn't get to present none of this."

"This whole case has been misleading the jury," Vanwinkle added as he started to cry. "It's keeping me away from my family, my kids, with unconfirmed reports."

During the trial, Judge Spanner found Vanwinkle in contempt of court six different times for repeatedly ignoring court orders and had assessed additional jail time against him for each contempt finding.

While the jury was deliberating, Spanner told Vanwinkle that he found that he didn't follow the correct procedures when handing down the contempt findings so he could not assess any time against him.

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