1:30 PM: We are in the courtroom of King County Superior Court Judge Bruce Heller, who is to sentence Monty Richardson in the Fairmount Springs attack case from last July. Judge Heller has just entered; defendant Monty Richardson, who entered a type of guilty plea while not acknowledging guilt, is now at the bench. The victim is here, as is her daughter and three family friends. On behalf of Richardson is his wife, their daughter, a former landlord of theirs, and the church he attends. Richardson is being sentenced for burglary and assault, to which he pleaded guilty on November 17th. Here’s our most recent report, after we discovered that plea bargain in court records.
The attack “fairly shocks the conscience,” says senior deputy prosecuting attorney Erin Becker, saying Richardson went into the victim’s home – across the street from his – and “inflicted extreme injuries … 26 fractures” including two spinal fractures. She was “left unconscious and alone when the attack ended. … Frankly, it’s very hard to have to explain to victims that this is what the Legislature proscribes for a crime .. a standard range of 26 to 34 months.” She mentions that some letters written in Richardson’s support allude to comments here that suggested somebody else did it.
1:36 PM: The victim is now speaking.
(Our as-it-happened coverage continues ahead, concluding with the sentencing decision just after 2 pm – video added of the judge explaining his decision):
“You can tell by the list of damaged body parts that I don’t operate the way I used to … from the way I go to bed at night to get up in the morning to get into my car and get out of my car, anything I would have normally done without thinking about it …” she begins. She talks about having babysat a member of Richardson’s family and saying “my greatest concern is the sadness for this little girl … that as she gets older, this is a possibility she has to sort out with her father.” She acknowledges Richardson’s meth use, saying “it does not fit with rational behavior.” She says he “has had chances before to straighten out his life … and it hasn’t worked for him, and he’s in his 40s, and I don’t know if there’s a program that will help, but that’s what I’m hoping for.” She says she wishes he could “serve much more time … to get away from his delusions about life.” She adds that if he feels like his life has been turned upside down … “that he remembers how many times he held me upside down and threw me against the wall … how he sat on me systematically breaking my ribs so I knew that’s what he was doing. It took a few cracks for me to know that’s what he was doing, breaking every one of my ribs.” She says it was just a coincidence that she went to Richardson’s home to seek help (court documents have said he wasn’t there at the time).
Speaking next, a friend of the victim who says she was called by the nurse at Harborview after the attack. She describes what the victim looked like in the hospital, breathing with the help of a tube. Richardson is shaking his head as he listens to this. “It makes me feel unsafe that this person is going to be roaming around the streets soon,” she says. The friend is followed by the victim’s daughter. “I would just like to say that what happened to my mother is just a nightmare … she could easily have died. … If she had died, the sentence recommended would have been much much longer … (the current recommendation) is just ridiculous.” She asks that he at least be sentenced to the full 34 months at the high end of the range. She says her mom had been a “trusting, warm person” who now has “apprehension about neighbors and people.”
1:45 PM: The defense lawyer, Sabrina Housand, is speaking now. “This is a very difficult case for everyone involved,” she says. She doesn’t believe it was premeditated – calling it “senseless … it truly was a crime that there is no explanation for. …. Mr. Richardson is not a man with a history of violence.” She mentions he had a drug conviction in his past and “nothing else.” She says he was raised by a violent, abusive father and then stepfather, “yet despite that he was able to make good grades in school” and had a productive work history. She then calls his addiction “a tragedy .. and something (he) has struggled with throughout his life.” She says he doesn’t believe he did it because he has “no recollection” of the attack, and notes that he didn’t “pursue a mental defense” because “he wanted this to end …he did what he thought was best for everyone else involved,” referring to the plea bargain. The judge asks her about the aforementioned comments/letters that apparently suggested he was possibly framed; the defense lawyer says simply, that wasn’t part of their defense and it was nothing Richardson asked for. She is followed by the pastor from a Capitol Hill church attended by Richardson, saying he has been active in the church, and that he’s never seen him violent or angry, and that he’s been working with Richardson regarding his addiction. He says the attack was “heartbreaking” and “out of the blue.”
1:54 PM: Richardson is speaking: “I stand here today … with a heavy heart and deep sorrow.” He sounds on the verge of tears. “I accept your judgment your honor. I don’t look forward to prison but I know I’m going.” He says he is “taking responsibility for being here today” and hopes he will come back to a community that will accept him.
2:03 PM: Judge Heller has imposed the high end of the sentencing range – higher than the prosecution had recommended in plea-bargain documents – but noted that’s only a few months more than the middle range: 34 months for the burglary charge, 14 months for the assault charge, 18 months of community custody when he gets out. The time he has served will be counted against this, and he also will almost certainly get “time for good behavior,” which means, the judge said, the extra 4 months is more like an extra 2 1/2 months. Though Richardson had no history of violence, the judge said, “you committed a terrible crime” – he read the description of the attack from the court documents, because he said it was important to realize just how “brutal” it was.
(We recorded the judge’s remarks on video; when back at HQ, we will upload the portion that does not include the victim’s name.)
ADDED: Here’s that video, as promised, with the judge even expressing disappointment at the sentence range he’s given to work with: