Judge blasts rapist and family
By JESSIE STENSLAND
Whidbey News Times Assistant editor
August 27, 2008 · Updated 3:10 PM
Judge Vickie Churchill revealed strong feelings when she harshly scolded a convicted rapist and his family last Friday, just before sending the man to prison for a minimum of 10 years and three months.
“It’s been said you are not a monster. I don’t know, but your actions lead me to believe that you are,” the Island County Superior Court judge said.
“You have no remorse, just a smirking attitude, even toward the court,” she added.
Her words didn’t appeared to have much of an impact on Joseph Blue, a 28-year-old Oak Harbor resident. He continued to smile smugly and shake his head, as he did during much of the trial last month.
Shocking many in the courtroom, Blue even clapped with obvious sarcasm after the victim spoke about how his actions caused her terrible anguish.
Last month, a jury found Blue guilty of first-degree rape and assault in the second degree by strangulation. He and his family members have maintained his innocence.
The 30-year-old victim testified at length during the trial about the frightening ordeal that occurred a year ago. Over the course of many hours, Blue beat her, bit her all over her body, gouged her eyes with his thumbs, raped her three times and strangled her several times, once causing her to lose consciousness.
In addition, two other women testified that Blue had raped and assaulted them in similar manners.
Friday, the courtroom was divided between Blue’s family members and the victim’s family and other supporters. A couple of members of the jury even appeared for the sentencing hearing and hugged the victim afterward.
Island County Prosecutor Greg Banks asked Churchill to give Blue the maximum sentence allowed by law. He pointed out that the defendant hadn’t taken any responsibility or shown any remorse.
“He acted like an animal,” Banks said. “He committed one of the most henious crimes it’s possible to commit.”
In her lengthy statement, the victim described how the assault left her at a loss in the world. She described how she once loved and trusted him, until she came face-to-face with his “terrible side.”
“Mr. Blue succeeded in making me believe I didn’t deserve to live,” she said.
“I saw no mercy. ... All I saw was hate, anger and monstrous rage I didn’t know could exist in anyone,” she continued.
Blue’s attorney, Jon Ostlund of Anacortes, spoke about how his client was an honest and productive man, and a responsible father, for most of his life. But then he started drinking.
“It’s clear that Mr. Blue has severe anger management and domestic violence problems when he’s drinking,” he said.
Blue didn’t testify during the trial, but he spoke at the sentencing. He apologized to the victim for “assaulting her and demeaning her,” but insisted that he didn’t rape or strangle her. He said he thought it would be a “no brainer” for the jury to acquit him.
“I am not done fighting this,” he pledged. He also said he’s found the Lord in jail and has become a better man.
The judge obviously didn’t buy it. She said “it is a no-brainer” that Blue is guilty and she predicted the Court of Appeals will agree.
Churchill even criticized Blue’s family members sitting in the audience. She said none of them, except for one of his brothers, showed any remorse when the woman was describing what happened to her.
“It’s just as if he had a right to do this,” she said.
Later, she asserted that Blue didn’t feel sorry for what he did.
“You had the type of upbringing that gets you this way,” she said, at which point Blue’s father left the courtroom in anger.
In the end, Churchill gave Blue the maximum “indeterminate sentence” of 10 years and three months to life in prison. He must serve a minimum of 10 years and three months, without any good time, and then go before a board and ask to be released.
“This is one of the few cases I can say that the sentence may not make a difference in how he lives, but at least it will keep him off the streets,” the judge said.Contact Whidbey News Times Assistant editor Jessie Stensland at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360.675.6611 ext. 5056.