2:20 PM: We’re at the King County Courthouse, where 40-year-old Ryan J. Cox has just been sentenced to 5 years in prison for stabbing a man in Gatewood in August 2017.
Superior Court Judge Susan Amini presided at the sentencing. Though the victim could not be at the hearing, a victims’ advocate read a lengthy letter he had written, saying Cox “should never be able to be free” after trying to kill him. The judge mentioned receiving a number of other letters from the victim’s family and friends.
Cox pleaded guilty last month to an enhanced version of the original second-degree-assault charge. The sentence ordered by Judge Amini is what prosecutors recommended, categorized in court documents as an “exceptional sentence” – four years in prison, plus one year after that for using a deadly weapon. Cox’s lawyer, meantime, filed a brief just before today’s sentencing, asking for a six-month sentence, the low end of the “standard” range, saying Cox “is trying to overcome his past difficulties and to better prepare himself to deal with these challenges in his future.” At the hearing, Cox contended the stabbing was in self-defense and expressed anger after the judge announced her decision.
As detailed in this WSB followup in 2017, Cox has a high-profile criminal history in the community, but mostly misdemeanors, which is what made this sentence “exceptional.” We recorded this afternoon’s hearing and will add video and details later.
5:15 PM: Video now added atop this story.
ADDED 9:04 PM: Here is our recap of the hearing:
No one spoke besides the deputy prosecutor (Jennifer Petersen) and defense lawyer (Carey Huffman), the aforementioned victims’ advocate (Tiffany Attrill-Meek), the judge, and Cox. The prosecutor explained that the victim and his wife wanted to speak but were traveling with their children on a long-planned school-break week (the hearing originally was scheduled for February 8th, on a court date cut short because of snow).
Prosecutor Petersen explained that while Cox had only one prior felony conviction, and therefore a low “offender score” to be considered in sentencing decisions, that too was what she described as a “violent attack on a stranger” (his baseball-bat assault and homophobic slurs against a fellow bus rider in 2012). She stressed the gravity of the victim’s injuries in this case, saying he “nearly lost his life,” which is why the “standard” sentence would be “simply inadequate.” She said she had given the judge a photo of the victim from one of his two hospitalizations related to the injuries, and graphically described those wounds, including one that severed an artery and punctured a lung.
The statement read by advocate Attrill-Meek was lengthy. “The night of August 8th changed the way I live my life forever.” It contained not only details of the attack and its lasting effects on the victim, but also angry words for Cox, describing him as a “local terror” well-known in West Seattle” and an “unstable, violent coward” who “should never be able to be free. The victim wrote that he “technically died twice” and that even as he recovered from the physical injuries, nightmares, flashbacks, and other symptoms of PTSD haunted him: “My ability to operate as a normal person was taken away from me by (Cox) … I was alive … but I might as well have been dead because I was a shell of myself.” After getting help, though, the victim declared himself “stronger than ever.”
Defense lawyer Huffman contended it was “wrong to characterize this as a man attacked for no reason … this was not the first time (the victim) confronted my client.” Court documents had outlined the victim’s anger at Cox for frightening his young daughter.
Cox interrupted his lawyer, saying he wanted to speak for himself. He said the attack happened outside a church where he had long had permission to sleep and that the confrontation happened as he was preparing to cook his dinner “around back.” He insisted he “was not the attacker … I’ve never hurt anyone who didn’t attack me.”
Judge Amini then explained what she had been given to consider and then said that she agreed with the prosecutor’s recommendation in particular because of the finding that Cox had inflicted so much “bodily harm” that it “justifies a significant … sentence.”
Cox then expressed angry disbelief. “You’re sentencing me to 48 months … after somebody attacked me?” He claimed he had only pleaded guilty because he’d been waiting for a year and a half to go to trial. The judge calmly explained that he had the right to appeal; he said he didn’t think he would want to bother because “obviously the court’s crooked.”
His parting words to the judge were, “I wish you good luck on judgment day, you’re going to need it.”
He has been in King County Jail since shortly after the stabbing, and will be transferred to a state prison facility now that he’s been sentenced.