Man pleads not guilty to perjury in fake death plot

Defense: Bell didn’t have means to flee

PORT TOWNSEND — A Bonney Lake man has pleaded not guilty to charges of second-degree perjury after prosecutors say he lied to protect his cousin, an active-duty soldier who allegedly attempted to fake his own death.

Ryen Ethan Bell, 20, appeared in Superior Court by video monitor from the Jefferson County Jail on Friday. A three-day trial was scheduled to begin Feb. 18.

A search-and-rescue team that included 10 local, state and federal agencies searched Dec. 19 for Bell’s cousin, Devin Mitchell Schmidt, at Fort Worden State Park after Bell reported Schmidt had sent him a suicidal video filmed there.

Schmidt was found later that night at McDonald’s in Port Townsend and was turned over to military police from Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

Bell posted a $25,000 bond after his hearing Friday before Jefferson County Superior Court Commissioner Stephen W. Gillard.

Second-degree perjury is a Class C felony, punishable by a maximum of five years in prison and/or a $10,000 fine.

Bell also has been charged with making false or misleading statements to a public servant and false reporting, both gross misdemeanors.

Defense attorney Joseph Schodowski unsuccessfully argued Friday that Bell should be released to electronic home monitoring. He also made motions to change the bond to bail and then to lower Bell’s bail to $10,000.

Gillard heard arguments from both sides before he ruled there hadn’t been a change in circumstances to address Bell’s conditions of release.

Since Bell has no criminal history, Schodowski said the standard range, if convicted, would be between one and three months in jail.

Jefferson County Prosecuting Attorney James Kennedy said he will be seeking restitution “in the hundreds of thousands of dollars” based on the all-day response with assets from the U.S. Army, Navy and Coast Guard in addition to Port Townsend police, Jefferson County Sheriff’s deputies and East Jefferson Fire-Rescue.

The State Patrol also was involved along with the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, the state Parks Department and the county search and rescue organization.

Kennedy said the bond was set at $25,000 because he was concerned Bell wouldn’t appear for his next court date scheduled for Jan. 17.

Kennedy said he had reason to believe Bell and Schmidt had planned to go to Mexico if their plot had been successful.

Schodowski disagreed, saying Bell doesn’t have a passport or an enhanced driver’s license.

“He has neither the means nor the ability to go to Mexico,” Schodowski said.

Kennedy pointed to the gusty wind conditions that day and said the rescuers were not able to assist other people who needed their help because they were searching for Schmidt, and Bell knew they likely wouldn’t find him at Fort Worden.

“It’s above and beyond the cost of assets,” Kennedy said.

“We can look at this now and think it was a ridiculous idea, and it was,” he added. “This case is still being investigated and entails other agencies. The $25,000 bond is not an unreasonable amount for what he did.”

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Jefferson County Managing Editor Brian McLean can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 6, or at [email protected].

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