WALLA WALLA -- A Washington State Penitentiary inmate will serve an additional five years in prison after pleading guilty Thursday afternoon to being an accomplice in the brutal slashing of a fellow prisoner last fall.
In pleading guilty to a reduced charge, Jose Jesus Morado Sanchez, 27, avoided the possibility of a life prison term.
Sanchez pleaded guilty to complicity to third-degree assault. The crime carries a standard sentencing range, based on Sanchez's criminal history, of 33-43 months in prison. But in a plea agreement, the prosecution and defense agreed to a longer, five-year term for Sanchez, the maximum allowed under state law for that category of crime.
In exchange, the prosecution reduced the charge from complicity to first-degree assault. Had Sanchez gone to trial and been convicted of that crime, which is a strike under the state's three-strikes law, he would have faced life in prison without parole because his criminal record includes two previous strikes.
Superior Court Judge Donald W. Schacht formally pronounced the five-year sentence after Sanchez entered his guilty plea. Schacht also placed Sanchez on a year of community custody, a form of probation, when he's released from prison.
Sanchez admitted acting as an accomplice to inmate Jose Sanchez Guillen, 26, who allegedly used a homemade shank to slice fellow prisoner Victor Carrillo Diaz. The assault, which occurred in the dining facility of a prison housing unit Sept. 25, 2009, reportedly was recorded by the unit's surveillance cameras and witnessed by several correctional officers.
Diaz was treated at Providence St. Mary Medical Center for slash wounds along his jawline to the back of his neck and on his side.
Authorities found two homemade shanks inside a garbage can under a flight of stairs at the prison. Sanchez reportedly was identified on surveillance video as placing a shank into the garbage can.
Officials also allegedly located several items of evidence in the cell shared by Sanchez and Guillen. The items included plastic razor handles, metal razor blades and broken toothbrushes.
Sanchez is serving time for 2007 crimes of first-degree robbery, harassment and first-degree theft in Whatcom County. He will begin serving his new five-year prison term after he completes his current sentence. His projected release date had been in June 2013.
His attorney, Richard Wernette, said in an interview that even though his client may have had a legitimate defense regarding his participation in the prison assault, the stakes were too high for Sanchez to go to trial on the initial charge. Wernette also pointed out that Sanchez's involvement was "pretty minimal compared to the vicious attack" allegedly committed by Guillen.
Guillen, 26, has been awaiting trial on a charge of first-degree assault. But Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Joe Golden said in an interview he will dismiss the charge because Guillen already is serving a sentence of life without parole and no appeal is pending or possible. Guillen was convicted of aggravated first-degree murder for shooting and killing a Chelan County sheriff's deputy after a routine traffic stop in June 2003.
"The penitentiary will punish (Guillen) more than anything we can do," Golden said, explaining that prison officials establish Guillen's custody conditions and appropriate reductions in privileges.
Terry McConn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 526-8319.