Double jeopardy trims Kennewick man's sentence

KENNEWICK -- A Kennewick man in prison for putting a rope around his longtime girlfriend's neck and threatening to kill her will have his sentence reduced.

James Louis Vann Jr., 37, is expected back in Benton County Superior Court soon to be resentenced on his conviction for second-degree assault with a deadly weapon.

The Washington state Court of Appeals in Spokane recently ruled Vann shouldn't have been tried for the assault and felony harassment because of double jeopardy.

The appeals court found that Vann's two convictions were for the same offense, a violation of his state and federal constitutional rights. A three-judge panel tossed out the harassment conviction with its own deadly weapon enhancement and ordered that Vann get a new sentence that reflects the change.

Vann has been serving a 2 1/2-year sentence -- 1 1/2 years of it mandatory time for the weapon enhancements. He's at Coyote Ridge Corrections Center in Connell.

At resentencing, Vann is looking at a standard range of three to nine months for the assault, with an additional mandatory 12 months for the deadly weapon.

Deputy Prosecutor Megan Whitmire said she has not yet decided what she will recommend.

Vann had felony convictions for assault and possession of a controlled substance, but they were more than 10 years old and couldn't be applied to the current case.

A Superior Court jury convicted him in April 2009 of the second-degree assault and felony harassment, both with findings that a deadly weapon was used in the crime.

Vann and his girlfriend had been in a relationship for 15 years and were together raising three children. However, they were apart Feb. 6, 2009, when the incident occurred at a South Tacoma Street home.

Vann had repeatedly threatened his girlfriend, saying he was going to kill her and hide her body so police couldn't do anything to him, according to court documents.

He also reportedly said he was going to cut off her head and limbs and bury them in different places.

In February 2009, he began beating his girlfriend, then showed her a kit that included duct tape and a rope, documents said. He then reportedly put the rope around her neck and held it to her throat.

The woman disputed many of the prosecution's allegations. She was present at his sentencing with her own attorney, who told the court that aside from two isolated incidents involving substance abuse by Vann there was no history of violence.

The woman had testified she provoked the fight and goaded Vann into it because of financial stress at home.

Vann acknowledged at sentencing that "drugs and alcohol played a very significant role in what happened."

He apologized because the case also affected his family with him locked up in prison, and pleaded with the court to show mercy.