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Driftwood assault earns Oak Harbor man life in prison without parole
An Oak Harbor man who got high on methamphetamine and hit a stranger on the head with a piece of driftwood pleaded guilty to his “third strike” last week.
Eric P. Raster, 31, will never be a free man again, barring an act of God or a governor.
Against the advice of his attorney, Raster pleaded guilty to two counts of assault in second degree and one count of assault in the fourth degree.
Chief Criminal Deputy Eric Ohme with the Island County Prosecutor’s Office said he left Raster little choice since he was unwilling to offer a plea bargain. There was no lesser charge Raster could plea to which would come with a serious enough sentence, he said.
“Mr. Raster had a long history of violence,” he said. “The citizens of Island County are much safer now that he will be spending the rest of life in prison.”
Under the state’s Persistent Offender Accountability Act, also known as the “three strike you’re out” law, a defendant convicted in three separate cases of violent felonies receives an automatic life sentence without the possibility of parole.
Inclusion of second-degree assault and second-degree robbery on the list of eligible felonies has been controversial since the law was passed 20 years ago; some, including the Seattle Times editorial board, have said the crimes are not worth of a life sentence.
Ohme said Island County Superior Court Judge Alan Hancock was extremely thorough in explaining to Raster the consequences of his plea; Hancock said he respected Raster’s decision to take responsibility for his actions, knowing he had no choice but to sentence him to life imprisonment without the possibility of release.
“Judge Hancock encouraged Mr. Raster to do something positive with his life in prison to try and atone for the things he had done,” Ohme said, “be that helping other inmates, writing, or something else.”
The prosecution and defense agreed to have Raster evaluated by a mental-health professional earlier this year because of his bizarre behavior, but the psychiatrist found he was competent to stand trial. Raster was diagnosed with a methamphetamine-use disorder, according to Ohme.
Raster has already spent much of his life in prison. He was just 16 years old when he and three accomplices broke into an apartment while armed and demanded money and drugs from the two occupants.
He was charged as an adult; he pleaded guilty to first-degree robbery, two counts of first-degree burglary, two counts of residential burglary and unlawful possession of a handgun.
It was his first strike. Ironically, it was Hancock who sentenced him to 10 years in prison.
Raster got his second strike for a second-degree assault in prison in 1999, according to the prosecution.
Early this year, Raster was arrested after allegedly crashing his car through barriers during the city’s Holland Happening event, forcing pedestrians to flee as he drove past vendor tents on the closed-off road.
About a hundred pedestrians on Pioneer Way were forced to run and jump out of the way as Raster drove a white Toyota Camry down the road.
A couple of men in cars tried to block Raster after he drove into the police department parking lot, but he drove through the lawn and escaped.
Raster drove the car, which now had a flat front tire and was dragging the front bumper, south on Highway 20.
A state trooper arrested him in Rolling Hills.
Raster allegedly told the trooper that he snorted a line of methamphetamine earlier in order to stay awake while he drove to Las Vegas.
Raster was charged with attempting to elude a pursuing police vehicle, DUI and hit and run. Ohme asked a judge to dismiss the charges last week since Raster will be spending life in prison.
Then in August, Raster hit a man in the head with a piece of driftwood at the city’s RV campsite. He chased another camper around, swinging at him with the wood, while a women screamed for help. The woman later identified Raster from a photo line-up.
Two days later, a deputy arrested Raster after responding to a prowler complaint. Raster said he did it because he thought he “was protecting the community.”
Later that day, Raster allegedly attacked a cell mate, punching the man until blood was splattered all over his face, clothes and the floor of the cell, the report states.
Raster told a corrections officer that he was doing “God’s work.”