Judges recuse; Stockwell trial moved to Lincoln County
March 3, 2022
RITZVILLE – The trial of a man accused of attacking state Sen. Mark Schoesler was moved to a different county.
Glenn R. Stockwell, 71, of Ritzville, allegedly assaulted Schoesler, R-Ritzville, last October. His trial on related charges was moved last week from Adams County District Court in Ritzville to Lincoln County District Court in Davenport, where Judge Dan B. Johnson presides.
Defense attorney Sara Duross Porto said Schoessler was elected to public office representing Ritzville and the surrounding area since 1992 in her oral argument on Feb. 17.
Porto suggested that notoriety presents “a probability of prejudice” in a trial. She pointed to pretrial publicity, claiming language in the local newspaper was prejudicial.
She argued local jurors would have “predisposed opinions” in the case and sought a change of venue.
Ritzville City Attorney John Kragt, who is prosecuting the case, countered, saying the defense was making “over-assumptions about the citizens of Ritzville.”
Kragt said the press coverage of the case was fair and suggested a segment of the population may not know Schoessler.
Kragt questioned the impact of such a motion on future cases in the city.
Adams County District Court Judge Andrea Russell heard the arguments in a Ritzville courtroom.
“Mr. Stockwell is also a well-known figure in town” having run for political office, she said.
Stockwell ran for county commissioner in 2020 and Ritzville mayor last year.
Russell said there was press coverage of the case, which is alleged to be politically motivated in state and national media, and The Ritzville Adams County Journal.
The judge characterized the Journal as “a fine local paper.”
Adams County has two district courts, one in Ritzville and another in Othello.
Russell said, “the jury pool is the same for both courts.”
Both court jurisdictions are in the 9th Legislative District, represented by Schoessler, and both judges are elected by constituents in the jurisdictions.
Russell said she consulted with Adams County District Court Judge Carolyn Benzel in Othello and announced both judges have recused themselves to avoid any appearance of prejudice.
Russell ordered the change of venue to Lincoln County District Court in Davenport, which is currently in the 13th Legislative District.
Lincoln County moves to the 9th Legislative District when redistricting is finalized this year.
No dates for court proceedings in Lincoln County were announced by deadline.