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Judge ignores plea bargain, gives Whidbey Marine who choked wife max sentence

Oak Harbor resident Hayron Garcialemus apologizes to his wife before a judge sentenced him to prison. - Jessie Stensland / Whidbey News-Times
Oak Harbor resident Hayron Garcialemus apologizes to his wife before a judge sentenced him to prison.
— image credit: Jessie Stensland / Whidbey News-Times

An Island County Superior Court judge deviated from a plea-bargained sentence to give a former Marine convicted of assaulting his wife the longest term possible, though it only amounted to an extra two months in prison.

Judge Alan Hancock sentenced 24-year-old Hayron Garcialemus of Oak Harbor to one year and eight months in prison at the end of a June 18 hearing. Garcialemus pleaded guilty May 24 to second-degree assault with a deadly weapon, assault in the second degree by strangulation, harassment, tampering with a witness and two counts of violation of a no-contact order.

Under a plea agreement, the prosecution and defense recommended that the judge sentence Garcialemus to a year and a half in prison. But the victim, who flew all the way from California to be at the sentencing, asked Hancock to give her husband the maximum sentence.

“My heart goes out to you for what you’ve endured the past few months and years,” Hancock said to the woman. He called the assault “extremely serious” and followed her wishes.

Before he was sentenced, Garcialemus said he was “deeply regretful” for what he had done.

“I may have lost my military career, but I still hope to make something good and decent of myself,” he said.

In her comments and victim impact statement, Garcialemus’ wife described the years of abuse and isolation she endured. She said he threatened to kill her or have her deported if she tried to leave him.

“I feel you need to understand that this crime was not a one-time thing; it was part of many years of physical and emotional abuse and manipulation I have gone through at the hands of my husband,” she wrote. “Years of being on the receiving end of his anger and violence.”

The woman finally called the police in May of 2009 after Garcialemus had pinned her down and strangled her. She also told police that he had pointed a gun at her and pulled the trigger just 10 feet away. She wrote that she was so scared she checked to see if she had been shot.

The original case against Garcialemus was dismissed after the vicim moved to California. She claimed he had told her to move there with their children so she couldn’t testify against him.

But then detectives discovered that Garcialemus had been violating court orders barring him from contacting the woman. After detectives talked to her, she decided to cooperate with the prosecution.

Garcialemus’ attorney, Jon Ostlund of Anacortes, said that Garcialemus’ three tours in Iraq, seven years of service in the Marines and a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, should be taken into consideration at sentencing. He pointed out that a Navy therapist and an expert in post-traumatic disorder diagnosed his client with PTSD.

“Although PTSD and alcohol abuse are significant factors in the abuse and domestic violence suffered by Hayron’s wife, he accepts and understands that it is not an excuse for his actions,” the attorney wrote.

Garcialemus was a Marine sergeant with VAQ-129 at Whidbey Island Naval Air Station.

A forensic evaluation from Western State Hospital, however, did not support the insanity defense based on PTSD. The report states that Garcialemus didn’t report any direct involvement in combat and he didn’t present any symptoms during two interviews with the doctor. Also, the woman claimed the abuse began before Garcialemus was deployed.

“The court is highly skeptical of the PTSD defense,” Hancock said, adding that Garcialemus’ claim “almost trivializes the actual incidents of PTSD that servicemen and women suffer.”

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