Plea in works on Longhouse arson, wreck

Case spans Clallam, Jefferson counties

PORT ANGELES — A Sequim man who allegedly set fire to gasoline at the Blyn-area Longhouse Market & Deli June 1 before crashing a stolen pickup truck in Jefferson County may plead guilty in the dual case.

A Sept. 13 trial is looming for David Scott Johnson, 40, charged with seven felonies in both counties connected to a series of incidents being adjudicated, for now, in Clallam County Superior Court.

“Discovery has been completed,” Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Sarah Woolman said Friday at Johnson’s status hearing in Superior Court.

In preparation for the trial, lead Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Jesse Espinoza filed a witness list with 13 names and a State Patrol DNA analyst yet to be determined.

Johnson is incarcerated in the Clallam County jail on $1.1 million bail.

Clallam Public Defender, representing Johnson, is negotiating with prosecuting attorney offices in both counties on a plea deal, Harry Gasnick of Clallam Public Defender said Friday at the hearing.

Johnson has been charged with first-degree arson, second-degree assault, first-degree attempted robbery, motor vehicle theft, and two counts of second-degree malicious mischief-physical damage exceeding $750 in Clallam County Superior Court.

He allegedly set fire to gasoline he had poured on the ground from a pump at the convenience store, scorching the interior of a parked van, before speeding away in a stolen Ford F-350 pickup truck to Discovery Bay 11 miles away, crashing it into a State Patrol vehicle.

State Patrol Officer Alfred L. Alderson, 55, was treated for facial lacerations at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle and discharged. Johnson also was treated at the hospital and discharged.

Jefferson County Prosecuting Attorney James Kennedy filed a declaration of probable cause for a charge of vehicular assault against Johnson on June 3 in Jefferson County Superior Court.

Gasnick was standing in Friday for attorney John Hayden at the Clallam court hearing.

“The status of this case is that what the parties are attempting to do, your honor, is complete a global negotiation that contemplates charges that either have been filed or may be filed in Jefferson County,” Gasnick told Judge Lauren Erickson.

“The negotiations for the Clallam County charges are pretty much settled as I understand it from Mr. Hayden, and it’s just a matter of hashing things out relative to the Jefferson County end of things.”

Gasnick said Hayden has been negotiating with Kennedy and expects the talks to be completed in one to two weeks, putting a resolution within days of Johnson’s earliest trial date. The outside date for the trial is Oct. 13.

“That’s some progress, because I think the last time Mr. Hayden was in court [he said] that he was having difficulty even communicating with Jefferson County, so all right,” Erickson said.

“I’m not saying he still isn’t having those difficulties,” Gasnick responded.

Erickson reset Johnson’s status hearing to Sept. 10, three days before trial.

Kennedy said Friday in an interview that he has not spoken with Hayden about the case for two or three weeks, adding that Johnson has not been arrested on the vehicular assault charge, as he has been incarcerated in Clallam County.

“He could also waive venue and agree to have the case in Clallam and have it resolved there without having to come to Jefferson at all,” Kennedy said.

“He’s got to answer to that charge no matter what.”

At the end of Friday’s hearing, Johnson responded to Erickson that he understood the proceedings were being reset.

He presented a stark difference from earlier court hearings following the incidents that had to be continued due to his disoriented mental state.

Johnson slurred and mumbled at the earlier court hearings, saying he did not know who he was and prompting Gasnick to speculate he was going through drug withdrawal.

Kennedy said he was awaiting the results of blood tests of Johnson from samples taken immediately after the incidents.

“I won’t have those back for months,” Kennedy predicted.

Johnson’s criminal history includes convictions for delivery of marijuana in 2009 and attempting to elude and two convictions for residential burglary in 2018, according to a prosecuting attorney’s office court filing.

Based on his offender score, Johnson’s sentence on the Clallam County charge for arson would be 9-12 years; second-degree assault, 5¼ years-7 years; first-degree attempted robbery, 8-10½ years; motor vehicle theft, 3½-4¾ years; and each charge of second-degree malicious mischief, 22-29 months, according to the filing.

The maximum penalty for vehicular assault, a Class B felony, is 10 years in prison.

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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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