Washington state crimes by the numbers
A man arrested on suspicion of a hate crime following a fight outside an Olympia gay bar was sentenced to 29 months on Wednesday after a jury convicted him of assault.
The prosecution did not ultimately charge the defendant, Dwayne Houston, with a hate crime.
The incident happened on Jan. 30 outside Jake’s on 4th in downtown Olympia. According to a police report, Houston, a 35-year-old Olympia resident, allegedly assaulted multiple people and was accused of using an anti-gay slur in reference to two male victims.
A person is guilty of malicious harassment -- Washington’s hate crime law -- if they act “because of his or her perception of the victim’s race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, or mental, physical, or sensory handicap.”
Thurston County Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Jeffery Lippert said there wasn’t enough evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Houston acted primarily because of a victim’s sexual orientation.
“It is unclear whether the defendant struck the male victim because he called his friend his ‘boyfriend,’ or because the defendant thought the male victim represented a threat to him, or for some other reason,” Lippert wrote in an email to The Olympian.
Lippert said the victims wanted Houston to receive the longest sentence possible. The prosecution charged Houston with unlawful possession of a controlled substance, two counts of fourth-degree assault, and one count of second-degree assault, which carries a longer potential sentence than malicious harassment.
Earlier this month, a jury found Houston guilty of third-degree assault rather than second-degree assault, fourth-degree assault, and unlawful possession of a controlled substance. The prosecution dropped one of the fourth-degree assault charges.
After victims, two other individuals involved in the case, and Houston gave tearful statements at Wednesday’s sentencing hearing, Judge Carol Murphy issued sentences on the high end of the standard range for all three convictions.
In addition to serving 29 months, Houston will be subject to no-contact orders along with other sentencing recommendations from the state.
“I do not do this because I believe ... Mr. Houston is not capable of changing,” Murphy said. “I believe that he is.”