KENNEWICK -- A 27-year-old man convicted of burglary, even though his verdict form showed the wrong name, had a warrant issued for his arrest Friday because he missed a court hearing.
Joshua Jordan Graham wasn't in the courtroom when his Benton County Superior Court case was called, so Judge Bruce Spanner noted the failure-to-appear and ordered that he be arrested without bail.
Spanner pointed out that the hearing had been set for 8:30 a.m. and that he waited seven minutes to take the bench. The hearing then only lasted a few minutes.
Graham showed up several minutes after it was over, but the case was not re-called. He was advised by his attorney to check himself into the Benton County jail that afternoon once the warrant paperwork was completed by court clerks.
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Graham claims he was inside the courthouse doors at 8:30 a.m. but that he had problems at security because of the chains that connect his wallet to a belt loop.
"They were hassling me about it. I was being held up by security," Graham told the Herald. "I apologize, but to lock me up for it, I don't know if that's right."
Graham called a Herald reporter at 2 p.m. and said that he was sitting outside the Benton County Justice Center, waiting to meet with attorney Gary Metro before being booked. As of early evening Friday, officials at the Benton and Franklin county jails said Graham was not in their custody.
Metro never met his client at the jail, but wasn't sure if he said he would or if there was a miscommunication. He didn't know his client's status Friday evening, but added that Graham had said he was going to check himself in.
Graham, of Richland, was charged with breaking into the Atomic Bowl business office early Jan. 16, 2011. Just minutes later, an Atomic Bowl/Jokers Casino employee went to deposit money in the office safe and found the door had been damaged and left open, court documents stated.
Surveillance video footage played for Graham's jury showed him entering the office at 1:14 a.m. and "walking quickly around the room looking through drawers and crouching in front of the office safe," documents said. He reportedly left after looking up and seeing the video camera.
Graham was identified by security officers who recognized his pink T-shirt and pink-striped mohawk hairstyle. He testified at trial that he had a lot to drink that night and doesn't remember what he did.
A Benton County jury on Graham's case returned a guilty verdict Dec. 21 against another man. The erroneous name was of a career criminal who had a Benton County trial a few months before.
The matter was before Spanner on Friday for sentencing, though first he needs to address two defense motions seeking either to have the case dismissed or the second-degree burglary conviction tossed and a new trial granted.
Metro, in court documents, said jurors either didn't notice the different name when the printed form was signed or chose not to care.
The verdict form is created by the prosecutor as a part of jury instructions, which are submitted to the court for consideration. The defense is given a copy to review and can make any objections, but the final say is with the judge who gives the approved documents to the jury upon starting deliberations.
The form in this case has a heading of "State of Washington, plaintiff, vs. Joshua Jordan Graham, defendant."
But below that it reads: "We, the jury, find the defendant Anthony Joseph Speelman, guilty of the crime of Burglary in the Second Degree as charged in Count 1."
Speelman, 43, most recently was convicted in Benton County Superior Court in October of second-degree identity theft. He is doing time at Stafford Creek Corrections Center in Aberdeen.
Metro argues that because the judgment does not find his client guilty, the court has no authority in sentencing Graham. He added that a criminal defendant is entitled to a jury that pays attention to the evidence and the verdict.
On Friday, Metro checked the hallways of the courthouse and other courtrooms a couple times in search of his client. He told Spanner that he talked to his client at 7 or 7:15 a.m. and Graham assured him that he would be in court on time.
Deputy Prosecutor Brendan Siefken requested the bench warrant, saying Graham has a history of failing to appear for court.
Graham claims he didn't get written notice of this court date. He acknowledged that "life is not about what's fair," but said he shouldn't be locked up for being late.
"I just don't want to sit in jail for the whole weekend just because I was five minutes late," he said. "The last thing I want to do is show up late and make anyone mad and get 22 months because of the situation I'm in."
He was out of custody on $10,000 bail.
If the case proceeds to a sentencing hearing, Graham faces between one year and five months to one year and 10 months in prison for the burglary.