Man’s assault trial reset for Dec. 16

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WALLA WALLA — A new trial date has been set for a man accused of pointing a loaded semiautomatic pistol at a Walla Walla police detective last year.

Matthew R. Hope, 39, of 1234 S. Fourth Ave., had been set to face a Superior Court jury starting next Monday on the charge of first-degree assault while armed with a firearm.

But as the result of him signing a waiver of his right to a speedy trial, the proceedings have been rescheduled to begin Dec. 16.

The trial has been postponed several times.

Officials claim Hope pointed the gun at Detective Kevin Bayne during an encounter about 8:45 p.m. on June 6, 2012, outside Hope’s residence.

Bayne and Detective Saul Reyna were in the area to take a different person into custody for an unrelated offense. After that occurred, Hope stood in the yard “in a shooting stance with a handgun pointed directly at (Bayne’s) head,” according to a police report filed in court.

Bayne, who was wearing a jacket with the word “POLICE” on the back — reportedly identified himself three times as an officer and told Hope to drop the gun.

But it wasn’t until Reyna — who came out of a nearby garage — pointed his gun at Hope that Hope dropped the magazine from the gun, ejected the round from the chamber and put the weapon on the ground, according to officials.

In a written declaration filed in court, Hope claims he didn’t intend to inflict “great bodily harm” on Bayne. Such intent is required for a conviction of first-degree assault.

“If I had had such an intent, I would have pulled the trigger on my firearm,” Hope wrote. “I had no desire whatsoever to cause any harm of any kind to anyone present that night. I simply intended to frighten whoever was trespassing into my yard.”

He added he put down his weapon when he became aware they were police officers.

Based on that assertion and legal arguments, his attorney, William McCool, asked Judge John Lohrmann on Wednesday to take action essentially reducing the charge to second-degree assault.

But Lohrmann ruled there is enough evidence for the first-degree assault charge to be decided by a jury.

Hope wasn’t taken into custody at the time he allegedly pointed the gun. It was confiscated and a report forwarded to the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.

But Hope was arrested Sept. 1, 2012, and booked into the County Jail on investigation of third-degree assault for allegedly striking a Benton County sheriff’s deputy on the shoulder at the Walla Walla County Fairgrounds.

Hope then was formally charged with committing both assaults. His trial on the third-degree assault charge is set for Nov. 18.

He is not in custody pending further court proceedings.

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

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