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Allison opts for jury trial in Winlock Municipal Court

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Vader resident Rodney W. Allison (center), 51, appears before a jury Thursday to defend himself against a charge driving while license suspended, third degree.

Winlock Municipal Court held its first jury trial in recent memory as Vader resident Rodney W. Allison defended himself against a charge of third-degree driving while license suspended last Thursday.

While all individuals arraigned at the court, which also prosecutes Vader cases, retain the option to seek a jury trial, few cases ever make it that far, as plea deals and diversion agreements are far more common prior to a trial taking place.

Judge pro-tem Lewis Zieske said it is also uncommon to see a charge of driving while license suspended go to trial, as the charge is not very severe and dealt with so commonly it is almost routine for the court.

Allison, 51, had opted to defend himself in front of a jury, consisting of six persons at the municipal court level, hoping to prove the Department of Licensing (DOL) failed to provide adequate notification of his driving status prior to his arrest, which took place Feb. 22 in Vader.

According to Lewis County Sheriff’s Deputy Jeremy Almond, who testified for the prosecution, Almond had observed Allison driving a van in Vader, with Almond stating he had prior knowledge of Allison’s license suspension. While attempting to confirm Allison’s driving status with dispatch, Almond said he observed Allison making a turn without using his indicator and affected a traffic stop, after which he placed Allison under arrest for driving while license suspended, third degree, and had him transported to the Lewis County Jail.

Allison, who had chosen to represent himself, attempted to uphold his argument that he had never been notified, but found himself too unfamiliar with trial procedure and, as a result, was prevented from introducing evidence because it had not been properly presented to either the prosecution or the court.

Zieske had previously cautioned Allison that, in the act of representing oneself, a defendant is expected to know all necessary trial procedure beforehand and informed Allison he still retained the right to seek a public defender. But Allison said he personally disapproved of Joseph O. Enbody, the defender assigned to the court, and insisted on self-representation.

After a trial lasting roughly an hour-and-a-half, the jury, consisting of one male and five females from within the Vader community, deliberated briefly and returned a verdict of guilty to the charge. It is expected their decision was based on a requirement by DOL to ensure notifications of change in driving status are sent, while no such requirement is in place to ensure they are received, as indicated by questions offered to the court before deliberation.

Zieske then handed down a sentence of 90 days in jail with 88 days suspended and two days credited for time served. Allison was also fined $1,200 with $600 suspended, and offered the opportunity to pay the unsuspended portion through community service. Not payable through community service were the costs incurred by the City of Vader in financing the trial, which included $430 in jury costs, $100 to pay for a bailiff and $110 in jail costs. Allison was given two years to pay these costs and to not receive any more driving offences, or the suspended portions of his sentence would be imposed.

Prior to Allison’s trial, Curtiss T. Napoleon, 28, of Tacoma, had been the last person scheduled for a jury trial in Winlock in January on two counts of fourth-degree domestic assault, but the trial was stricken and the charges later dropped without prejudice due to the unexpected unavailability of the victim for testimony.

Prosecuting Attorney Dana Williams (standing), representing the City of Vader, questions potential jurors Thursday morning in an attempt to narrow them down to a six-person group. The court clerk noted far more jurors had responded to their summons than had been anticipated.

Judge pro-tem Lewis Zieske (background, left) reminds Allison (background, right) of Allison’s obligation to be aware of trial procedures, as Allison had chosen to represent himself. Unable to comply with the rules in place, Allison was prevented from entering any items into evidence during the trial.

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