Guilty plea expected today at hearing in case of Port Angeles shootout

James Edward Sweet

James Edward Sweet

PORT ANGELES — Convicted Port Angeles felon James Edward Sweet, who was injured in an early morning May 2016 gun battle with law enforcement officers on U.S. Highway 101, has reached a plea agreement that could land him in prison for more than 20 years, his lawyer said Monday.

A hearing at which Sweet is expected to plead guilty is at 9 a.m. today in Clallam County Superior Court.

His lawyer, Alex Stalker of Clallam Public Defender, said Sweet is expected to plead guilty to one count of first-degree assault and four counts of second-degree assault, all with firearms enhancements.

Sweet, 38, is in the Clallam County jail on $1 million bail on eight charges to which he has pleaded not guilty.

They include four counts of first-degree assault with a firearm and single charges of second-degree assault with a deadly weapon, possession with intent to manufacture or deliver a controlled substance-heroin, attempt to elude, and unlawful possession of a firearm.

“I anticipate that there will be a plea entered,” Stalker said.

He said he expects Sweet will be sentenced to more than 20 years in prison.

Michele Devlin, county chief criminal deputy prosecuting attorney, would not comment Monday on today’s hearing.

Devlin submitted a witness list with 78 names Jan. 22 in anticipation of the case going to trial March 19.

Sweet allegedly fled a traffic stop at about 9:45 a.m. May 28, 2016, in east Port Angeles on Highway 101 before crashing his car about 2 miles east at the intersection of Highway 101 and Monroe Road, exchanging fire with four officers, according to court records.

He shot twice with a .38-caliber revolver from inside his vehicle at Port Angeles Police Officer Whitney Fairbanks, who returned fire, appearing to wound him, according to the probable cause statement.

Sweet fired his weapon at least once more while running away from the vehicle, then fired twice more while four officers held him at gunpoint while he lay on the grass on the corner of Highway 101 and Pioneer Road.

“All four officers returned fire, and Sweet was struck again,” the statement said.

“I just wanted them to end it and kill me,” Sweet told a State Patrol detective in a June 9, 2016, interview at Harborview Medical Center, according to the statement.

The 1990 Toyota Camry Sweet was driving contained two handguns, 36 grams of a white powdery substance believed to be methamphetamine in three baggies, 3 grams of a substance that appeared to be black tar heroin, scales and packaging material, according to the statement.

Sweet’s criminal history includes attempting-to-elude and bail-jumping convictions in Washington, a drug trafficking conviction in Idaho and three convictions of menacing in Colorado.

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Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].

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