Friday, June 13, 2003

Spokane

Jurors return guilty verdict for Graham
Spokane man attempted to kill officers, jury says

Kevin Blocker
Staff writer

photo
Graham

Jurors on Thursday found a Spokane man guilty of attempted murder of police officers and his accomplice guilty of assaulting police in a gunbattle last year outside a downtown train and bus station.

Jurors found Jason Graham, 21, guilty of two counts of attempted first-degree murder, four counts of first-degree assault, and one count each of second-degree assault with a deadly weapon, possession of stolen property, taking a motor vehicle without permission and unlawful possession of a firearm.

Jeremiah Jones, 21, also of Spokane, was found guilty of one count each of first-degree assault with a deadly weapon and possession of stolen property.

Graham was wounded by police during the Jan. 7 gunbattle. He allegedly fired two dozen rounds from a semiautomatic assault rifle, but none of the shots hit police or people aboard an Amtrak train, two Greyhound buses or inside the Intermodal Center. The shootout started after police pursued a speeding car containing Graham and
Jones.

Jurors began deliberating the case Wednesday, but one juror did not show up Thursday morning, so Superior Court Judge Maryann Moreno ordered an alternate to replace her, according to deputy prosecutor Teresa Border. That meant that deliberations had to start over.

"We're pleased with the verdict," Border said. "Jason Graham is looking at a substantial prison sentence," perhaps even a life sentence, she said.

Before the trial, Graham's public defense attorney, Dick Sanger, told jurors his client had been "overcharged" by prosecutors.

Sanger accused the Spokane County Prosecutor's Office of pandering to the Police Department by refusing to plea bargain Graham's case.

Sanger noted prosecutors made plea deals with men and women charged with several high-profile murders recently. But when he approached prosecutors with the idea of a plea deal for his client, Sanger said he was "laughed at."

"They said there would be no plea bargaining because police didn't want them to," Sanger said.

Border previously declined to comment about Sanger's accusations, but on Thursday said she disagreed strongly with Sanger's assertion.

"These were two men who were initially pulled over for speeding," Border said. "When a routine traffic stop escalates into a gunbattle, what that says to us is that these are people with high criminal intent and a threat to police and the public."

Sanger told jurors that Graham was not trying to kill officers, but that he didn't want to face the prospect of spending the rest of his life in jail. His hope was that police would return fire and kill him, Sanger said.

Public defense attorney Doug Boe represented Jones. He told jurors that his client was the more cooperative of the two men during the shootout.

"He waited for the action to die down before walking right up to a police officer and surrendering," Boe said.

Despite that claim, Border said prosecutors will ask Moreno to impose an exceptional sentence on Jones at his sentencing later this summer. Border said she wasn't sure what Jones' sentencing range would be.

ĽKevin Blocker can be reached at (509) 459-5513 or by e-mail at kevinb@spokesman.com.


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