Teen sentenced in connection with assault, theft

Michael R. Zuniga pleaded guilty for his role in an attack on a man in May.


WALLA WALLA -- A Walla Walla teenager who had pleaded guilty to a criminal charge related to the assault of a man and the theft of his property in Eastgate in May was handed a suspended sentence Monday afternoon.

Michael R. Zuniga, 18, of 924 W. Willow St., was ordered to serve a year in jail for obstructing a law enforcement officer. But imposition of the sentence was suspended on condition he successfully completes a year of probation.

Walla Walla County Superior Court Commissioner Scott Wolfram gave Zuniga credit for the two days he'd served before being released on bail.

The sentence was recommended by the prosecution in a plea agreement. Zuniga pleaded guilty Sept. 19 to the gross-misdemeanor charge, which was reduced from a felony charge of complicity to first-degree robbery.

Officials had accused Zuniga of being an accomplice of Matthew E. Poarch, who beat up Spencer Caldwell on May 4 in the parking lot of Taco Bell, 202 N. Wilbur Ave., and stole items from him.

Poarch arrived at and left the scene in a vehicle, the driver of which Caldwell recognized as Zuniga, officials said. When Zuniga was contacted by authorities for an interview, he reportedly told them he was at his girlfriend's residence at the time of the assault. But that was refuted by the girlfriend's father.

Zuniga was charged May 19 and a warrant was issued for his arrest. He was apprehended June 27.

Poarch, 23, of 683 Pima Road, No. 277, pleaded guilty in July to third-degree assault and third-degree theft. The case was reduced from an initial charge of first-degree robbery.

He also received a year-long suspended sentence with credit for time already served in jail. His attorney explained that Caldwell allegedly owed Poarch money and Poarch decided to take matters into his own hands.

Terry McConn can be reached at terrymcconn@wwub.com or 526-8319.


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