A jury dismissed a Benton County inmate’s claim that memories of his own childhood abuse triggered his attack on another defendant in court.
Brandon L. VanWinkle, 37, was convicted of third-degree assault for the Dec. 17 incident in Benton County Superior Court.
Jurors returned the guilty verdict Wednesday evening after listening to two days of testimony and deliberating for about 2 1/2 hours.
One juror had to be dismissed before deliberations because she was afraid for her safety and refused to go back into the courtroom with VanWinkle.
The remaining 12 jurors told Judge George Fearing that her fears did not taint or have an effect on their decision.
Prosecutors argued that VanWinkle’s actions three months ago amounted to “vigilante justice,” and there was no question he intended to harm Kyle R. Welch.
VanWinkle had been in court awaiting his own hearing when he saw Welch sentenced to five days for abusing his then-girlfriend’s 3-year-old daughter.
The toddler’s mother had pointed out to the court that day that Welch’s negotiated sentence was for less time than the 11 days it took her daughter’s nearly head-to-toe bruises to heal.
Welch was sitting in the jury box waiting for a corrections officer to take him to jail when a handcuffed VanWinkle punched him at least once.
Court officers forced VanWinkle onto the ground and held him down until backup arrived and the courtroom was cleared.
During his three-day trial, the defense argued that VanWinkle had diminished capacity.
VanWinkle cried as he told jurors he did not remember anything after seeing pictures of Welch’s victim, and didn’t really come to until he was back in his jail cell and told what he had done in court.
VanWinkle and his mother, Diretha Hollenbaugh, testified about how they had been beaten by VanWinkle’s stepfather.
Deputy Prosecutor Brendan Siefken refuted VanWinkle’s claims with a recording of a phone call between the inmate and his mother.
On the call, VanWinkle talks about the attack and explains that he knew it was the only chance he would have to get at Welch, so he just punched him.
His sentencing is scheduled April 6. He faces about four to five years in prison based on his lengthy criminal history.
VanWinkle has an April 25 trial date on a separate charge of intimidating a judge.
In that case, he is alleged to have threatened to chop up Judge Alex Ekstrom because VanWinkle disagreed with an order that he wear restraints at all future court hearings.