Sentencing of Bryson Chaplin, Andre Thompson
Bryson Chaplin, 23, will spend 10-1/2 months in jail after being found guilty of assaulting an Olympia police officer.
His brother, Andre Thompson, 25, will spend two months in jail after being found guilty of the same crime.
Both men were sentenced Monday in Thurston County Superior Court, about two months after their trial ended. A jury found Thompson and Chaplin guilty of third-degree assault. The jury also found Chaplin guilty of fourth-degree assault for throwing a case of beer at a west Olympia supermarket employee before the incident with the officer.
Judge Erik Price delivered the sentence in front of a packed courtroom. He said that assaulting a police officer is a serious crime and must be treated accordingly.
Both men were taken into custody. As they exited the courtroom, several people said, “We love you Andre and Bryson,” and encouraged them to be strong.
As he left, Chaplin addressed the crowd, and said, “I love you guys.”
Many of the spectators were there to support Thompson and Chaplin, but the back row of the courtroom was filled with Olympia police officers. Officer Ryan Donald, the officer Thompson and Chaplin were convicted of assaulting, spoke at the hearing.
Donald was critical of Thompson, Chaplin, defense attorneys and the media. He said attorneys and the media made the case about race, which was inaccurate. He told the court that he’s fair to every one he meets, regardless of race. The incident, he said, was the result of Thompson and Chaplin’s poor decision making.
“Both ended up as victims of their own terrible decision making and stupidity,” Donald said.
Chaplin’s attorney, Sunni Ko, said the burden of proof in a criminal trial is on the prosecution, and Donald was the main proof in the case. That’s why the defense focused on Donald, she said.
She said the jury didn’t believe Donald’s story, and that’s why Chaplin and Thompson were found guilty of the lesser third-degree assault charges instead of more harsh second-degree assault charges.
Chaplin also pleaded guilty earlier this year to three counts of third-degree theft for stealing beer from the same supermarket. Price dismissed a theft charge against Thompson partway through the trial.
Thompson and Chaplin’s sentences are dependent on state guidelines, which take into account criminal history. The sentences given Monday were both in the middle of the state’s standard sentencing ranges.
Chaplin has a criminal history dating back to 2008. Court records show that of Chaplin’s 13 prior convictions, five are felonies.
Convictions include one count of second-degree robbery, one count of fourth-degree assault, two counts of taking a motor vehicle without the owner’s permission, one count of second-degree theft, five counts of malicious mischief, one count of bail jumping, one count of minor DUI, and one count of minor in possession of alcohol.
“For 10 years, the juvenile criminal justice system and the adult criminal justice system have been dealing with Mr. Chaplin,” Jackson said.
He said Chaplin has had plenty of opportunity to change and to seek help for substance abuse issues. He also argued that the fact that the men were shot should have an effect on sentencing. He said that Donald had a right to defend himself.
Deputy Prosecutor Scott Jackson recommended a two-year sentence for Chaplin. Ko recommended that Thompson serve probation and no jail time. She said that there’s a mitigating factor in the case: Chaplin is partially paralyzed.
“Bryson Chaplin has been sentenced to life imprisonment, life imprisonment in his own body,” Ko said.
She said that he’ll never walk again, and he’ll never be the professional dancer he dreamed of being. Instead, he’ll be dependent on others. During the hearing, Ko showed a video of Chaplin dancing prior to the shooting. She also read a letter from Thompson and Chaplin’s mother, Crystal Chaplin.
She described the damage to Bryson Chaplin’s body, the constant pain he experiences, and his inability to control bodily functions.
Ko also alleged that a cognitive disability caused by childhood lead poisoning influenced Bryson Chaplin’s decision making, and should be considered at sentencing. Crystal Chaplin wrote in a letter to the court that her son sustained lead poisoning as a toddler, while they were living in Key West, Florida.
Crystal Chaplin wrote that the lead poisoning affected Bryson Chaplin in the same way that fetal alcohol syndrome would affect a child. He had problems focusing in school, and was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, oppositional defiant disorder and dyslexia.
When Bryson Chaplin was 8, the Department of Social and Health Services determined that he was disabled, Crystal Chaplin wrote. He suffered from anxiety and depression throughout his school years.
However, Price said he couldn’t find any legal justification in state law to stray from the standard sentencing range.
Court documents show that Thompson’s prior convictions are from Clark County Superior Court, took place in 2012, and are all misdemeanors. The four prior convictions are bail jumping, supplying liquor to a minor, minor in possession of liquor, and obstructing a law enforcement officer. None of these prior convictions contributes to his current sentence.
Jackson recommended that Thompson spend three months in jail, while Ko recommended a year of probation. Ko said that Thompson is working two jobs in an attempt to support his mother and pay child support for his two daughters.
Thompson briefly spoke at the hearing, but he spoke so quietly it was hard to hear what he said. He thanked the judge for his time.
The trial, which began March 19, covered a series of events between Thompson, Chaplin and Donald on Cooper Point Road that occurred in the early hours of May 21, 2015.
Chaplin and Thompson were charged with assault following the attack on Donald, who was attempting to apprehend the brothers while responding to the report of thefts and an assault at the supermarket.
Chaplin and Thompson each were charged with two counts of second-degree assault. But the jury couldn’t reach verdicts on those charges, and instead found the men guilty of the lesser, third-degree assault charges instead. Because the two men waived their right to an appeal, the prosecutor’s office agreed not to file the second-degree assault charges.
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.
Jackson said its unfortunate that the trial focused on Donald’s conduct instead of Thompson and Chaplin’s actions. He argued that Thompson and Chaplin have continually blamed others for what happened in 2015 instead of taking responsibility for what they did.
“That’s not what the criminal justice system is about,” Jackson said. “The criminal justice system is about holding people accountable.”
For most of the trial, Ko represented Thompson, and attorney George Trejo represented Chaplin. But Trejo left the case earlier this month following a “breakdown of communication” between Chaplin and the attorney. Ko represented both brothers at Monday’s sentencing.