Court roundup: Kennewick man pleads innocent to cyberstalking

Kristin M. Kraemer, Tri-City HeraldJanuary 20, 2013 

Just one week after his release from jail on a new assault case, a 23-year-old man is back behind bars for allegedly sending hundreds of text messages to a former co-worker he claims to love.

Lance Theopolis Smith pleaded innocent in Benton County Superior Court to a felony count of cyberstalking.

His trial is March 11, the same day he is to face a jury on charges he punched the employee of a Kennewick tavern and dented the side of a cab while intoxicated.

Smith met the victim in the latest case when the two were working at Fat Olives restaurant in Richland.

According to court documents, he sent hundreds of text messages to her over a week. On Jan. 12 alone he sent 190 messages, documents said.

The woman reportedly told police she feared Smith would find her home or new workplace and try to harm her or others.

One of his messages referred to an incident when he wanted to "break down and start crying or kill every living thing around" the victim, court documents said.

Smith admitted to officers to sending the repeat messages "because he loves her," documents said.

The Kennewick man already has a case for second-degree malicious mischief and fourth-degree assault.

He was at The Pub Tavern on Dec. 29 when he was cut off from buying more drinks. He later took a shot of alcohol and was asked to leave, but refused and lit a cigarette, court documents said.

A Pub employee reportedly was hit in the face by Smith when he took the cigarette away, and Smith escaped out a door despite efforts by his friends and staff members to restrain him.

Smith then kicked the rear quarter panel of a taxi outside the Clearwater Avenue bar, causing $1,500 in damages, documents said.

People held him outside until Kennewick police arrived.

Smith was arraigned on those charges during a Jan. 3 court hearing and granted release on his personal recognizance. The new allegations happened the next week, according to prosecutors.

Smith is being held on $5,000 bail for the cyberstalking.

Judge Craig Matheson warned Smith at a hearing last week that while the case is pending, he is to have no contact with the victim, whether in person, by phone or through emails.

Smith, whose hands were cuffed during the hearing, agreed to the order by leaning into the microphone at the defense table and said, "In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost."

Trial date set for bouncer accused in bar incident

The lawyer for a downtown Kennewick club's general manager accused of causing extensive head injuries to a customer by dropping the man on the sidewalk said they're ready to go to trial.

Matthew Thomas Hibbard and his attorney, John Jensen, appeared in court to confirm the Jan. 28 trial date.

Hibbard, 41, is charged with third-degree assault with aggravating circumstances for the July 4 incident.

Court documents say he acted with criminal negligence and caused excessive injuries to Ben Ensign when Hibbard dropped the Jack Didley's patron on a sidewalk.

Hibbard intends to claim his actions were in self-defense.

In his role as a manager of the bar at 109 W. Kennewick Ave., Hibbard reportedly acted as a bouncer when needed.

Ensign, 31, reportedly caused a disturbance inside the club, was drunk and was asked to leave. He returned a few minutes later and tried to get inside again, and that's when Hibbard and another man working security grabbed Ensign and carried him out, court documents said.

Hibbard grabbed Ensign around his neck and head, while the other man had his legs, and they dropped Ensign onto a concrete sidewalk, documents said.

Ensign suffered skull fractures. He spent several weeks at Kadlec Regional Medical Center in Richland, then in August was transferred to a traumatic brain injury recovery center in Spokane.

40-year-old could face life sentence for rape

A 40-year-old man could be locked up for life after admitting he sexually assaulted a young girl a number of times during a period of seven years.

David Michael Patton pleaded guilty to one count each of first-degree rape of a child and first-degree child molestation.

Patton was a patient in Lourdes Counseling Center's psychiatric unit last July for a suicide attempt when he told a counselor about the earlier sexual abuse, court documents said.

"While he was admitting this conduct he was asking for forgiveness," documents said.

Patton claimed there was a second victim but that child was not included in this case.

The charges involved a young girl who was molested in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Investigators tracked down the girl, who confirmed the abuse in detail.

Patton also has a 1991 conviction for first-degree child molestation. He was a juvenile at the time.

Patton is being held without bail while awaiting sentencing, tentatively set for Feb. 28. A presentencing report first must be completed by state community corrections officers.

Given his criminal history, the rape carries a standard range of 131/2 years to 18 years in prison. The molestation has a range of eight years and two months to 10 years and 10 months.

The charges qualify for an indeterminate sentence, which means whatever term Patton receives will have to be served in its entirety before a state board will decide if he is ready for release.

Patton's prison time could be extended repeatedly so that -- if he doesn't participate in treatment or required programs -- he ends up spending the rest of his life in prison.

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