On April 17, Matthew McDaniel was convicted of assault in the third degree. McDaniel, who was arrested on Feb. 3 for assaulting Sheriff’s Deputy Mark Millet, gained notoriety after being accidentally released from the Clallam County jail on Feb. 4. He turned himself in on Feb. 6.
The incident began when Millet noticed McDaniel’s vehicle parked illegally at Railroad Bridge Park at 11:49 p.m. The Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe, which is steward of the park, prohibits overnight parking. After several attempts to wake McDaniel failed, Millet woke him by shaking the car and asked him to get out of the vehicle.
When McDaniel did get out of his car, he alleges that Millet shoved him up against the doorframe.
Defense attorney Loren Oakley alleges that photographic evidence from the scene corroborates McDaniel’s statement. After being pushed away, Millet believed that McDaniel was a threat and subdued him with his taser. McDaniel was arrested for assault in the third degree, a Class C felony.
While awaiting trial in jail, McDaniel wrote two lengthy letters, to the court and to prosecuting attorney John Troberg, stating that while he did shove Millet, he did so in self-defense. He asked Judge Brooke Taylor not to give him jail time but instead to allow him to enlist in the armed forces where he said he could put his welding skills to use.
At the core of the debate during trial was whether or not Millet’s use of force was acceptable and justified to restrain McDaniel, or whether McDaniel, fearing for his life or limb, had a right to push Millet away.
Controlling the situation was crucial for Millet, said Troberg, hence his use of force. With McDaniel’s size and weight advantage, Troberg said that Millet naturally felt threatened when McDaniel began moving erratically.
Troberg argued that members of law enforcement are trained to deal with difficult people and situations, and they have to use their discretion for what kinds of force to use and when.
He said that there’s “a certain point at which a suspect will cross the line. You don’t put hands on an officer.” Because of McDaniel’s erratic behavior, Troberg said, Millet’s use of force was understandable and justifiable.
Oakley contended that McDaniel’s guilt had to be proven beyond reasonable doubt, and “this case is full of reasonable doubts.” Oakley contradicted Troberg’s argument in his closing statements, alleging that Millet had escalated the situation instead of calming it by requiring McDaniel to get out of his car despite having no pants or shoes on. He also said that photographic evidence of the case shows that McDaniel could have been pushed up against his SUV, and fearing for his safety, he pushed back. “My client did it because he felt it necessary to defend himself and that is not a crime.”
After a 3 1/2-hour deliberation, the jury convicted McDaniel of assault in the third degree, and Taylor sentenced McDaniel to 81 days in jail; due to credit for time served, McDaniel was released.
McDaniel will not be allowed to possess a firearm and will have to pay $1,300 in court fees.