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Video key in nailing Oak Harbor man for assault
The key piece of evidence in an assault trial last week was a video that showed three men kicking and stomping a man lying in the street in front of the Lava Lounge nightclub in Oak Harbor.
The only assailant to be identified, 25-year-old Ronald Cabell, Jr. of Oak Harbor, went on trial in Island County Superior Court. It took the jury only 25 minutes of deliberation to find him guilty of second-degree assault with aggravating factors.
Detective Tony Slowik with the Oak Harbor Police asked that anyone with information about the identity of the two other assailants to contact police at 279-4750.
At sentencing on Friday, Deputy Prosecutor Eric Ohme asked the judge to send Cabell to prison for 75 months, based on “the callousness of the act and the helplessness of the victim.”
“He could have been paralyzed, brain damaged or worse,” Ohme said in an interview, referring to the victim, 21-year-old Joseph Mitchell. The Navy man was knocked unconscious and suffered a broken nose and a badly broken leg that required surgery to repair.
Cabell’s attorney, Nancy Neal of Coupeville, urged Judge Alan Hancock to sentence within the standard sentencing range of three to nine months in jail. She noted that her client had no criminal history and had served in the Navy.
Yet the jury found that two aggravating factors existed, which allowed a sentence beyond the standard range. Specifically, they found that Cabell acted with “deliberate cruelty” and that the victim was “particularly vulnerable.”
WARNING: Video contains violent images
Hancock ultimately sentenced Cabell to two years and nine months in prison, which he said was proportional to the crime. In an interview, Ohme conceded that Hancock’s decision was “well reasoned” and he’s happy with the result.
Ohme said the case wasn’t the first one he’s handled involving “head stomping” outside the downtown Oak Harbor nightclub. And later this month, he’s scheduled to handle a trial against a man accused of whacking a Lava Lounge bouncer over the head with a beer bottle, and then police found a loaded handgun and a bag of cocaine on the man, court documents allege.
“I felt this case should be prosecuted pretty aggressively to show people that this kind of behavior is not appropriate,” Ohme said of the Cabell case.
The assault occurred just after the bar’s closing time in the early morning of March 27. Different witnesses described a crowd of anywhere from “more than 20” to nearly 200 in the street. Mitchell and prosecution witnesses testified that the men attacked him for no apparent reason; they said Mitchell hadn’t gotten into any arguments with anyone that night.
After Mitchell fell to the ground, the men kicked and stomped on him.
A defense witness, on the other hand, testified that Mitchell was starting fights outside and fell down because he had tried to kick someone. She said he continued punching and fighting while he was on the ground. But during cross examination, Ohme showed that the woman’s testimony had changed slightly since she was interviewed the week before. During sentencing, Judge Hancock indicated that the prosecution’s version of events was more reliable.
One of Mitchell’s Navy friends who testified is seen in the video trying to stop Cabell from kicking Mitchell. The video shows Cabell punching the man before stomping Mitchell in the head area. Cabell is finally pulled away by another man.
After police arrived, they discovered that a woman had videotaped the assault on her digital camera. At sentencing, Hancock commended the woman for providing the crucial piece of evidence.