A man suspected of assaulting an Olympia police officer didn’t plead guilty to theft charges as expected Tuesday after a prosecutor objected to the plea.
Bryson Chaplin was expected to plead guilty to two counts of third-degree theft. His attorney, George Trejo, announced the intention at a Monday court hearing. Trial for the other charges would have moved forward.
Judge Erik Price said he’ll likely decide Thursday whether Chaplin will be allowed to plead to the two counts. Before then, attorneys on both sides are expected to file briefs and argue their cases.
Jury selection for the trial of Chaplin and his brother, Andre Thompson, began Monday. The process is expected to continue through Thursday, before opening statements start next week.
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On Tuesday, Deputy Prosecutor Wayne Graham said he would oppose Chaplin entering the guilty pleas. He argued that defendants have no constitutional right to enter a guilty plea at any time if they have previously pleaded not guilty at arraignment — they can only do so if a judge allows it. Chaplin pleaded not guilty to the theft charges when they were filed in October 2016.
“It’s obviously just a tactic to limit the information the jury is given,” Graham said of the pleas.
Thompson and Chaplin face assault charges resulting from an alleged May 21, 2015, attack on Olympia police Officer Ryan Donald, who was attempting to apprehend the brothers after responding to a report of thefts and an assault at a west Olympia supermarket.
Both men were shot during the altercation with Donald, who was cleared of wrongdoing by the Thurston County Prosecutor’s Office and the Olympia Police Department.
Trejo said Monday that Chaplin planned to plead guilty to two thefts that occurred that night. The suspected assault is tied to a third theft that happened later.
Trejo said if the guilty pleas are allowed, he would ask to have evidence and testimony regarding the first two thefts removed from the trial, because it would be prejudicial. The evidence includes surveillance video from the grocery store.
Attorney Sunni Ko, who represents Thompson and supports allowing the guilty pleas, said that while deciding whether to accept the pleas, Price should take into account the prejudicial effect testimony about the early thefts would have on her client as well. Thompson is not charged in those two alleged thefts.
Meanwhile, the judge and attorneys spent most of the day questioning potential jurors. Many told the court that they had seen coverage of the shooting in the news — but most said that they hadn’t followed the case beyond initial reports.
A few potential jurors said they knew witnesses, including law enforcement officers who investigated the case and supermarket employees.
One man, who identified himself as a teacher at a Mennonite school in Rochester, said his religious beliefs didn’t allow him to participate in politics or government. He said that includes jury duty, and the judge dismissed him.
A young woman was dismissed after she told the judge that she still lived at home, and her father had strong opinions about the case.
One potential juror said he was surprised at how long the case had been pending. He wasn’t dismissed.
“I thought this was crazy over, gone,” he said.
After a long day of jury selection and arguments about guilty pleas, Price offered some insight.
“Trial is called trial for a reason. It’s a trying time for everyone,” he said.