Inn owner faces criminal charges

A longtime, well-known Oak Harbor hotelier pleaded not guilty Monday to charges that he pushed a police officer, then bribed and intimidated witnesses of the alleged crime, court documents state.

Prosecutors charged 79-year-old Joseph Franssen in Island County Superior Court March 13 with bribing a witness, two counts of obstructing or intimidating a police officer, and third-degree assault.

If convicted of the charges, Franssen could face more than two years in prison under the standard sentencing range.

According to a report by Oak Harbor Police Officer Jennifer Porter, she responded to a 911 hang-up call from a trailer in the Auld Holland Inn mobile home park Feb. 18. As Porter and another officer were talking to the residents, Franssen, who is the owner of the inn and park, barged in and told the officers that they were on private property, the report states.

Porter wrote that the officers told Franssen to leave several times. When he refused, Porter wrote that she tried to “lightly” push him out the trailer. Franssen then pushed her on the chest with an open hand, causing her to take a step back, the report states.

The officers arrested the elderly man. He resisted and had to be pinned against a door and handcuffed, the report states. Porter noted that Franssen smelled of intoxicants.

“There are previous reported incidents with Franssen obstructing law enforcement, and the rights of tenants,” Porter wrote. “Franssen has also posted signs at the entrance of the trailer park, advising all law enforcement is forbidden to enter his property.”

On Feb. 26, Oak Harbor Police Detective Mike Bailey interviewed a woman who lives in the trailer park and works at the inn for Franssen. She said Franssen had asked her to change her story about witnessing the alleged assault and write out a statement alleging that the officers didn’t identify themselves, Bailey wrote.

The woman said that while Franssen was trying to get her to change her story, he pointed to a $50 bill sitting on a desk, winked at her and told her she dropped it, court documents indicate.

Two days later, the woman called police and claimed that Franssen was again harassing her about changing her statement about the alleged assault. She claimed Franssen became verbally hostile when she refused and pushed her against a barrier in the office when she tried to call for help, the report states. Bailey wrote that the woman sustained a large bruise on her arm.

In addition, the woman said Franssen gave her a tape recorder to practice her statement on. She discovered a recording of him talking with another witness, a 28-year-old man who also lives in the trailer park.

Bailey interviewed the man, who said he didn’t know that Franssen recorded their conversation. The man said he felt Franssen was pressuring him to write out a statement — in Franssen’s favor — about the alleged assault, the report states.

At a March 11 hearing, Judge Alan Hancock ordered Franssen into the custody of his son. Also, the judge granted a harassment no-contact order barring Franssen from contacting the two witnesses.

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