Lower Elwha Klallam tribal member pleads guilty to assault

TACOMA — A Lower Elwha Klallam tribal member has pleaded guilty in federal court to domestic assault by a habitual offender for attacking his partner in the parking lot of the Elwha River Casino, the FBI announced.

Matthew Tyler Charles, 31, changed his plea Tuesday during his trial in U.S. District Court Western District of Washington at Tacoma, U.S. Attorney Annette Hayes said in a news release.

Charles is scheduled to be sentenced June 15. He faces up to five years in federal prison, Hayes announced.

Charles pleaded guilty after one day of testimony about his history of assaulting his intimate partner, Hayes said.

According to court documents, Charles confronted the woman when she arrived at the Elwha River Casino with his brother last Oct. 21.

The assault was captured on video surveillance.

“The video shows Charles assaulting the victim, violently shoving her back into the car and physically restraining her when she tried to flee,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a news release.

“At one point during the incident, Charles brandished a knife.”

Two witnesses who left the casino as the assault was taking place alerted security before driving away.

The witnesses came forward earlier this month after the FBI disseminated security photos of the vehicle they were traveling in.

Charles had previous convictions of fourth-degree assault with domestic violence in 2015, second-degree assault with domestic violence in 2010, second-degree assault with domestic violence in 2006 and fourth-degree assault with domestic violence in 2005, according to the federal complaint.

Two of those convictions involved the same woman.

Charles’ previous convictions subjected him to prosecution as a habitual offender.

The habitual offender statute was passed in 2006 to help combat violence against women in Indian Country, U.S. Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Emily Langlie said in a March 8 email.

Charles’ case was the fourth time the statute had been charged in the Western District of Washington, Langlie said.

The case was investigated by the FBI and Lower Elwha police. It was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Rebecca S. Cohen and J. Tate London.

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Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56450, or at [email protected] dailynews.com.

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