Break in, assault gets Southend man prison

One of three men accused of breaking into a South Whidbey man's home and assaulting the owner this summer is going to prison.

On Oct. 4, a jury convicted Lester Dane Blanton, II, of assault in the second degree in Island County Superior Court. According to the Island County Prosecutor's office, Blanton and three other men broke into William Jesse Ogden's Maxwelton Road home on June 29. Court testimony showed that Blanton repeatedly struck Ogden, injuring Ogden's head, chest and legs and possibly breaking his nose. He also choked him with a chain he was wearing around his neck. The four attackers then fled the scene by car.

Prosecutors originally charged Blanton with burglary in the first degree and assault in the second degree. Deputy Prosecutor Mike Henegen, who tried the case, said the judge dismissed the burglary charge after the victim testified he invited at least one of the assailants into his home.

After Ogden's testimony, prosecutors were permitted by Judge Vickie Churchill to treat Mr. Ogden as a "hostile witness." In that situation, the prosecutor is allowed to cross-examine the witness, even though the witness is being used to make the prosecutor's case.

Island County Prosecutor Greg Banks said those situations arise occasionally in criminal trials. Banks said that the victim in this case did not want to go forward with the trial.

Henegen said that the work of Langley Police Officer Leif Haugen and Sheriff's Deputy Darren Crownover made a successful prosecution possible. He said police anticipated that Ogden might become uncooperative when they started their investigation, so they gathered additional circumstantial evidence.

Blanton previously had been convicted of theft of a firearm. At the time of the attack on Ogden, he was being supervised by state probation officers. Blanton will be sentenced Oct. 29. He faces a prison sentence of 12 to 14 months.

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