A 63-year-old Pasco man behind bars for a 2006 fight that led to another man's death wants Gov. Chris Gregoire to give him a get-out-of-prison early pass.
Charlie M. Harper plans to submit a petition for reprieve, commutation or pardon to the governor's office.
Harper has been locked up since Cleveland Everhart died in October 2006 and is hoping for early release because of his age, according to his new attorney Shelley Ajax.
He is serving a 71/2-year sentence.
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Franklin County Judge Bruce Spanner granted a motion authorizing release of the police reports, plea agreement, "statement of defendant on plea of guilty" and probable cause affidavit. Copies of the documents, which are needed for the petition, will be released at public expense to Harper and Ajax, according to the motion.
Ajax was recently appointed to represent Harper on this issue.
Prosecutor Steve Lowe said he has no problem handing over the documents and told the court he should have the copies made by next week.
Under the state constitution, the governor has the authority to grant pardons.
Petitions are first reviewed by a committee, which decides whether the matter should be set for a hearing before the full Clemency and Pardons Board. The board then makes a recommendation to the governor.
According to a blank copy of the petition form, a commutation is for reduction of sentence, a pardon is for complete relief from the sentence and a reprieve is to delay imposition of sentence.
The process is said to take several months.
Harper must state his reasons why the governor should grant his request.
Meanwhile, he remains in Airway Heights Corrections Center near Spokane, according to the state Department of Corrections.
Harper entered modified guilty pleas in Franklin County Superior Court in May 2007 to two counts of third-degree assault. The charges were for the attack on Everhart and the 65-year-old man's caretaker, Virginia Williams.
Harper was originally charged with second-degree murder and second-degree assault and was facing a life sentence with a third strike.
Lowe then said he wanted to spare the surviving victim from having to testify at a trial, he was concerned jurors might acquit Harper and the evidence was clear that Everhart's death was not an intentional homicide.
Pasco police had been called to Williams' South Hugo Avenue home late on Oct. 8, 2006, for a reported disturbance between Harper, Everhart and Williams. The fight was broken up with no one requiring medical help.
But as officers were collecting statements and evidence, Everhart's condition deteriorated and an ambulance was called to take him to Lourdes Medical Center in Pasco. Everhart died about an hour later.
An autopsy showed that all of the arteries in his heart were at least 95 percent blocked and any prolonged physical activity could have triggered cardiac arrest. But it was determined that Everhart's fatal heart attack was brought on by the fight between the two men, including an apparent chokehold by Harper.
Court documents said Harper struck Williams with a metal bar that he had brought with him. That's when Everhart came out of a back bedroom to help Williams and a struggle ensued. Harper strangled Everhart with both of his hands and the metal bar, documents said.
Harper had claimed self-defense, saying Everhart attacked him. He maintained that he did nothing wrong.
Everhart lived with Williams. Harper, who lived down the road with relatives, was previously involved with Williams.
Before the fatal assault, Harper had 12 felony and gross misdemeanor convictions dating back to 1969. That included three armed robberies, three first-degree robberies and a possession of a controlled substance by a prisoner while in the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla.
Knowing that he could have gone to prison for life under Washington's three strikes law, Harper at the time authorized his attorneys to start negotiating with prosecutors. The two sides had discussed the plea offer for about six weeks before Harper decided it was his most favorable option, lawyer Carl Sonderman said a the time.
The sentence includes back-to-back time -- four years and nine months for the assault on Everhart and three years and seven months for Williams' assault.
Sonderman had said he expected his client to be out of prison in less than 41/2 years with credit for good behavior.
Whenever he is released, Harper has orders not to return to the Tri-Cities for at least two years.
w Kristin M. Kraemer: 582-1531; firstname.lastname@example.org