Prosecution deferred in March vehicle chase

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WALLA WALLA — Attorneys have agreed to defer prosecution of a man accused of leading law enforcement on a vehicle chase last winter beginning in College Place and ending in the county.

The case against Jonathan L. Struthers, 28, is being placed on hold for a year because both sides believe the interests of the community and Struthers “are best served by (his) compliance with mental health treatment and deferral of prosecution,” according to a stipulation filed in Walla Walla County Superior Court.

Struthers is charged with attempting to elude a pursuing police vehicle, a conviction of which carries a standard-range penalty of up to 60 days in the County Jail. But the charge will be dismissed when the deferral period ends Oct. 31, 2013, if he has followed through with a number of conditions.

They include requirements that he continue treatment he’s begun and comply with all recommendations including taking medication, commit no criminal acts and submit to random drug tests.

If he doesn’t comply, a judge will try him Nov. 26, 2013, based on evidence contained in a police report, which Struthers acknowledges contains enough facts to find him guilty.

The court stipulation was signed by Struthers, Deputy Prosecuting Attorney April King and Struthers’ attorney, Richard Wernette.

Officials said the March 6 pursuit involving Struthers began about 5 a.m. after a College Place police officer pulled him over at North College Avenue and Blalock Drive for failing to dim his lights.

Responding to the officer in a “sluggish” manner, Struthers eventually said he was being detained illegally and drove off during the contact, according to a police report filed in court.

He traveled at varying fast and slow speeds on county roads west of College Place, periodically turning the vehicle’s lights on and off, the police report says.

A Walla Walla County Sheriff’s deputy deployed a spike strip and Struthers stopped on Bluff Haven Road near Last Chance and Frog Hollow roads about 5:45 a.m., according to officials.

After Struthers’ arrest, he reportedly told Wernette he left the scene of the traffic stop because he believed the police were going to threaten his “livelihood.” Struthers acknowledged to Wernette he had been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, but resisted the idea of a physician prescribing medications, according to a court document.

Struthers, of 18 Sweet Onion Lane, Walla Walla, was released on bail March 20, and was to obtain and comply with mental health treatment. A subsequent, court-ordered mental health evaluation found him competent to stand trial, which had been scheduled for last month.

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