Benton County judge sentences man who claims to be Jesus Christ

Kristin M. Kraemer, Tri-City HeraldNovember 28, 2012 

A 34-year-old man who claims to be Jesus Christ said Tuesday that his conviction for spitting in the face of a corrections officer won't stand on appeal and he will get out to exact his own punishment on the judge, prosecutor and jail staff.

Brandon Vanwinkle was ordered to serve three years and seven months in prison for the July 27 crime. He received the lengthy sentence because his criminal record includes eight felony convictions.

"I'm going to sentence you soon in Jesus Christ's court," Vanwinkle said after Judge Bruce Spanner announced the sentence. "You guys are going to be sentenced soon. That's a promise on my daughter's grave."

Spanner, who presided over Vanwinkle's Benton County Superior Court trial, threatened to find Vanwinkle in contempt of court if he continued to interrupt the judge. Spanner made six contempt findings during the trial, but Vanwinkle ended up not having serve extra jail time.

"Do you really want to go there? Because I can do that," the judge said Tuesday, as Vanwinkle again cut him off.

"I'm really Jesus Christ. You guys are going to see what I'm going to do and, because this is my world, I can do whatever I want," Vanwinkle said. He added that the victim in his case, Sgt. Dennis Schaefer, will "get his by the sword. He's done."

The Lacey man represented himself at the trial and was convicted Nov. 8 of custodial assault.

He was serving out fines in the Benton County jail and had been in custody for more than 100 days when in July he spit on Schaefer's arm, face and head.

Court documents show he threatened Schaefer after being told he was being moved to a new cell for damaging jail property and spitting and throwing urine on other inmates.

Vanwinkle said he was reading his Bible when the officers "came in to bombard me," and they are making up the assault.

Vanwinkle received the top of the sentencing range, which was recommended by Deputy Prosecutor Kristin McRoberts, who said, "From '93 on he's been a regular in the court system, both in Benton County and in other counties."

Vanwinkle asked to be considered for a residential Drug Offender Sentencing Alternative, so he could get treatment and be there for his 4-year-old daughter.

He called methamphetamine "the devil's drug" and said he uses it as a tool to watch how people work, but said it needs to be in a controlled environment.

McRoberts objected, saying Vanwinkle is "a horrible candidate" for the program and that there's no indication this crime was caused by substance abuse.

"Mr. Vanwinkle has shown throughout the pendency of this case, and during the trial, that he has the ability to control his behavior when he wants to," McRoberts said. He will control himself when told by the judge he's facing contempt days, and when there are no consequences he will do whatever he wants, she said.

"What kind of treatment do you give someone who claims they're Jesus Christ every other day. ... Keep Mr. Vanwinkle incarcerated as long as possible," she said.

During his trial when the jury wasn't in the courtroom, Vanwinkle said he worked for the federal government and had been conducting a 16-year undercover investigation on the county court and jail system.

On Tuesday, Vanwinkle declared he is Jesus Christ and has been "working on that criminal history" since age 11. He said that in order to spy on corrections officers, he "had to collect charges to come through the system, to watch poverty, watching people out there in the drug world, to figure out how corrupt the system is."

"I already wrote the president. Christina Aguilera is my wife. You guys are going to see what I'm going to do to the world. I'm going to bring heaven to Earth. ... I'm a special boy, that's all I've got to say. But I'm going to get out (of prison)."

At one point during the court hearing, he referred to Rip Van Winkle as his father and acknowledged that it is a fairy tale.

"I'm sacrificing myself in here and I've been doing this for a long time coming in and out of here. Nobody wakes up and says 'I'm going to jail today.' Nobody except me, Brandon Vanwinkle. That's what I do," he said, noting that he's already put himself in prison three times and is doing it again. "When I'm in there I'm taking parenting classes, anger management classes, watching people and studying people, and watching officers work. That's what Jesus does."

Vanwinkle told the court he can't go into what he's doing for foreign places like Iraq, Afghanistan and Germany, but added that "a lot of beautiful things are about to happen on this Earth."

Spanner denied the request for the special drug sentence, saying he isn't confident Vanwinkle would be successful in the program. And he said Vanwinkle deserves the maximum time to protect the public because of his "complete lack of remorse" and long history of assaultive behavior.

"I find your conduct throughout the trial displayed a profound, a profound rejection of authority," Spanner said.

After the hearing, a notice of appeal was filed on Vanwinkle's behalf.

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