Ex-con gets time-served sentence for burglary, assault

He’d served 34 months in jail and as a mental patient at Medical Lake.

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WALLA WALLA — An ex-convict who attacked a deliveryman in Touchet in 2010 was handed a time-served sentence Thursday in Walla Walla County Superior Court.

Luis A. Ballesteros, 22, was ordered to spend a year and five months in prison, the low end of the standard range of 17-22 months he faced.

However, he was given credit for the more than 34 months he served in jail and as a mental patient at Eastern State Hospital in Medical Lake.

Judge Scott Wolfram imposed the sentence shortly after Ballesteros pleaded guilty to second-degree burglary and third-degree assault in a plea agreement with the prosecution.

Wolfram also placed Ballesteros on a year of community custody, a form of probation. In addition, he was ordered to pay $1,600 in court costs and fees.

“I really don’t want to break the law anymore,” adding later he plans to “get a good-paying job,” Ballesteros told Wolfram in an apology.

Officials said Ballesteros committed the burglary and assault shortly after he was released from the Washington State Penitentiary early on June 3, 2010. He was headed to the Tri-Cities on a Grape Line bus that stopped at the Touchet Mercantile.

He entered the store and walked into a storage room in which a young girl was sleeping.

The deliveryman, Joseph D. Hunt of Kennewick, went into the room about 7 a.m. to drop off products and was confronted inside by Ballesteros, who closed the door and attacked Hunt, according to a Sheriff’s Office report filed in court.

Hunt overpowered Ballesteros and helped subdue him until law enforcement arrived. Hunt wasn’t injured, nor was the girl hurt or disturbed.

As Wolfram pointed out Thursday, the case took a protracted route to conclusion.

Ballesteros initially pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to first-degree burglary, second-degree assault and third-degree attempted theft, and was committed to Eastern State in early 2011.

But he later appealed to the state Court of Appeals in Spokane after reportedly deciding he didn’t want to be forced to take medications at the hospital indefinitely — possibly for the rest of his life.

Early this year, a three-judge appeals-court panel found constitutional deficiencies in the record of the plea-taking procedure. As a result, Wolfram signed an order April 24 finding Ballesteros’ insanity plea was not made knowingly and voluntarily, thereby nullifying it.

Ballesteros then entered guilty pleas to the crimes of second-degree assault and second-degree burglary. But it was later discovered he was misinformed about the penalty he would receive due to errors by the prosecution and defense in complex calculations based on his criminal record. Because the length of prison time would have been longer than he expected, he was allowed to withdraw those guilty pleas and enter into the final plea agreement.

Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Joe Golden said in an interview that Ballesteros now is “doing fine,” taking his medications and probably would have been released from Eastern State Hospital soon.

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

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