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Felony charges dismissed

A 27-year-old Oak Harbor man who was facing six felony charges in what was one of the most serious Island County cases of the year recently pleaded guilty to just two gross misdemeanor counts.

Island County Deputy Prosecutor Leslie Tidball agreed to dismiss the felony charges against Charles Brown during an Aug. 8 hearing in Superior Court. Brown had faced three counts of rape in the first degree, assault in the second degree with a deadly weapon, felony stalking and felony violation of a protection order.

As part of a plea bargain, Brown pleaded guilty to two counts of violation of a protection order. Judge Vickie Churchill sentenced him to 365 days in jail, with 275 days suspended. That means Brown, who’s been in jail since May 10, gets out of jail Monday.

Island County Prosector Greg Banks concedes that the big turnaround in the case “looks bad,” but he said a case simply couldn’t be made to prove the felony charges against Brown.

“After we did some additional investigation and the defense did their investigation,” he said, “we concluded that we couldn’t prevail in court.”

The case was originally handled by Arne Denny, a deputy prosecutor who left after a short stint in Island County. He made the decision to charge Brown with six felony counts. After he left, Tidball had to pick up the pieces of the case.

“The charging decision was made a little hastily,” Banks said.

Both Banks and Tidball say the victim in the case made prosecution difficult. In her victim impact statement written May 30, she indicated that she would like Brown to serve a small amount of jailtime and get counseling “due to the fact that there are serious issues that need to be addressed.”

In a recent and scalding letter to the prosecution, she wrote that she is “upset and saddened” by the impending plea bargain. “I disagree with the plea,” she wrote,” and hope the court will enter the maximum penalty.”

But then the woman seemed to change her mind again when she spoke in court during the Aug. 8 sentencing hearing. She approved of the plea bargain and again said that she wants Brown to receive counseling.

Tidball said the victim will get her wish. Under the terms of the plea bargain, Brown cannot contact the victim and will be monitored by the Department of Corrections for two years. He must also comply with a mandate from Child Protective Services to get counseling, in addition to any counseling that family court may order. Brown and the victim have three children.

According to Tidball, Brown will be discharged from the Navy because of the case. She said Navy officials will pick him up from jail Monday, though she’s not sure if he faces any criminal action from the military.

Brown’s attorney couldn’t be reached for comment.

Brown admitted to going to his wife’s home in violation of both military and civilian protection orders, according to report written by Oak Harbor Detective Jerry Baker. The victim claimed that Brown threatened her with a kitchen knife and forced her to have sex with him, court papers show.

Navy security made a “welfare check” on the woman and her children May 7 and found Brown hiding in the closet. Baker wrote that the woman originally told security that she didn’t know Brown was in the closet, but she later said she didn’t trust the Navy and was scared to tell the truth.

“Three attorneys put a lot of time into this case,” Banks said, “but it’s always frustrating when you have to turn down a rape case. ... We owned up to it. I think it would have been worse if we dragged everyone through the system.”

You can reach News-Times reporter Jessie Stensland at jstensland@whidbeynewstimes.com or call 675-6611.

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