Hotel owner pleads guilty in district court

A criminal case against a well-known Oak Harbor hotelier was resolved in district court last week.

Joseph Franssen, 80, pleaded guilty in Island County District Court to obstructing a police officer. Prosecution was deferred on charges of fourth-degree assault and attempted tampering with a witness.

Chief Criminal Prosecutor Colleen Kenimond said she decided that the case, which originally involved felony charges, would be better resolved in district court because Franssen was more apt to get the supervision she felt he needs.

Under the terms of the plea bargain, Franssen must comply with a mental health treatment program and he will be supervised by the district court’s probation office, Kenimond said.

Franssen won’t have to spend any time in jail as long as he complies with the conditions.

According to a report by Oak Harbor Police Officer Jennifer Porter, she responded to a 911 hang-up call from a trailer in Ault Holland Inn trailer 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.

“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 works at the inn for Franssen. She said Franssen had asked her to change her story about witnessing the alleged assault.

Two days later, the woman called police and claimed that Franssen was again harassing her about making a statement. 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 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 about the alleged assault, the report states.

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