Coyote Ridge inmate gets 10 years for attack on cellmate

By Annette Cary, Tri-City HeraldJanuary 3, 2013 

Kenneth Smith was sentenced to 10 years in prison Wednesday for almost bludgeoning to death a fellow inmate at Coyote Ridge Corrections Center in Connell.

Smith, 35, changed his plea to guilty of second-degree assault with a deadly weapon in Franklin County Superior Court.

He also was ordered to pay more than $121,000 in restitution, including $102,750 to the Health Care Authority.

On the morning of June 29, 2009, Smith and his cellmate, Scott McDonald, had been fighting on the second tier of a medium-custody unit, authorities said at the time.

Later, McDonald returned to the cell after getting a cup of coffee. Smith hit him in the head 15 or 16 times with a cast-iron pot in a pillow case, according to court documents.

Smith had a smudge pot for use in religious ceremonies to burn incense or sage and create smoke. One of the pot handles was broken off in the attack, according to court documents.

A report by a registered nurse said there was a large pool of blood on the floor around McDonald's head and it was spattered nearby when she was called. He was breathing but not moving, the nursing report said.

McDonald was taken for medical care as a "John Doe" because he had been beaten beyond recognition, said his brother, John McDonald Jr., in court Wednesday. John McDonald had to identify him at Kadlec Regional Medical Center in Richland by his tattoos.

"You are an evil man," the victim's sister, Laurie Ingram, said in court. "No one in the whole world deserves that."

She asked that Smith look at a picture of Scott McDonald's father, who has forgiven his son's attacker and is looking forward to being able to take his son fishing. However, she has been unable to forgive Smith and doesn't think she will until he is in hell, she said.

Scott McDonald, who is now in his late 40s, remained in a coma for almost a month. He survived the attack, but lost his left eye and suffered brain damage.

"He's not doing well," Ingram said after the court hearing.

He still has mesh in his skull where he lost bone and will need multiple surgeries. He often repeats the same things, including ordering the same food again and again, she said.

Ingram said she is thankful that Smith will be in prison for another decade.

The sentence handed down by Judge Bruce Spanner on Wednesday will start after Smith finishes serving his current 26-year sentence for a conviction on three counts of assault in 1996 in Snohomish County.

He has been held in the Washington State Penitentiary's intensive management unit in Walla Walla while the case involving McDonald was pending.

Smith declined to speak at his sentencing.

His attorney, Karla Kane, said he agreed to plead guilty because he could have been sentenced to a longer term if he had gone to trial. Charges against him had included attempted murder.

Smith had been brutally assaulted before McDonald was hurt, she said.

"He isn't evil," she said. "He feared for his life."

However, the level of force used by Smith against McDonald exceeded the amount needed for self-defense, the plea agreement said.

McDonald has filed a federal lawsuit against the state of Washington, saying that he should not have been housed with Smith, who had a history of violent behavior, and that Smith should not have been allowed a metal smudge pot.

Cast iron is banned and any smudge pot allowed as a religious object should have been made of shell or wood, according to the lawsuit.

Smith repeatedly was placed on administrative segregation for violent behavior during his incarceration, including assaulting other prisoners, possessing homemade weapons and inciting "riotous behavior," the lawsuit said.

McDonald was serving time in Coyote Ridge on a 2007 Benton County conviction for attempted robbery. He was sentenced to eight years for following a man to his Richland home and threatening to kill him after seeing the Walmart customer with a wad of money in his wallet.

His sentence had been reduced for good behavior and his violations generally involved the use of illegal drugs and theft charges to support the drug habit, the lawsuit said.

-- Annette Cary: 582-1533; acary@tricityherald.com

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