Tribal member faces trial in federal court for alleged assault

PORT ANGELES — A Port Angeles man who allegedly assaulted a woman at the Elwha River Casino last October is facing trial in federal court this month, the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced.

Matthew Tyler Charles, a member of the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe, is charged in federal court with domestic assault by habitual offender.

FBI investigators said Charles punched and shoved an unidentified woman, referred to as Jane Doe, in the casino parking lot in the early morning hours of Oct. 21 before driving away in the woman’s car.

The alleged assault was captured on casino security footage.

According to the federal complaint, Charles threw the woman up against her vehicle, punched her and brandished a knife at the woman and her male companion.

The FBI investigated because the incident occurred on tribal lands, agency spokeswoman Ayn Dietrich-Williams said.

A trial is scheduled for March 26 in U.S. District Court Western District of Washington at Tacoma.

Charles, 31, had prior 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 complaint.

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

“It was passed in 2006, and this is the fourth time we have charged it in the Western District of Washington,” Langlie said.

The alleged victim told Elwha police that Charles approached her as she was getting out of her vehicle and “started to hit her and throw her up against her vehicle,” FBI special agent Ted Halla said in the complaint.

“Jane Doe stated that she believes that Charles was mad at her because she was at the casino with one of his family members,” Halla said.

The security footage showed Charles pushing the woman into the driver’s seat, Halla said. Charles “appeared to strike Doe with his fist at least once,” Halla said.

“However, due to the position of the car door, which partially obstructed both Doe and Charles, the full extent of the physical confrontation cannot be clearly seen,” Halla said.

The woman told Elwha police that Charles grabbed a knife during the assault and kept repeating: “I’m going to get you guys,” Halla said in the complaint.

At one point, Charles and his relative, who refused to be interviewed by authorities, assumed fighting stances and lunged at each other without making physical contact, Halla said.

Charles eventually drove away in the woman’s car without her permission, the complaint said.

The FBI issued a request for witnesses from the incident Tuesday.

Two women left the casino as the assault was taking place. One returned to notify security before the pair drove off in a Dodge Durango, Dietrich-Williams said.

The FBI disseminated security photos of the Durango and the witnesses soon came forward, Langlie said.

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

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