Two plead in alleged assault; case probed as hate crime said to have been like ‘schoolyard fight’

PORT ANGELES — What was first investigated as a possible hate crime last summer when a black man was allegedly beaten up resulted Tuesday in Port Angeles-area District Court II with two men being arraigned on gross misdemeanor charges.

Corey L. Stone, 19, and David R. Love, 20, both of whom are white, pleaded not guilty in their arraignment in connection with the alleged July 17 assault involving Quinn Smith, 22, who was at the time a Peninsula College student and now lives in Colorado.

Stone has been charged with fourth-degree assault, the least serious assault charge under state law, and Love with obstructing a law enforcement officer and making a false statement to a public servant.

District Court Judge Rick Porter released Stone without bail and Love on $5,000 bond, or $500 bail, due to his criminal history and a pattern of having been issued arrest warrants.

Porter ordered Love to pay bail by May 30.

Porter set pretrial hearings for July 11 and trial dates of July 19 for both men.

Smith had alleged he was approached at about 2:30 a.m. July 17 by about six high school-age males and females who drove up to him in vehicles while he was walking to a friend’s house near the intersection of South Cedar and Ninth streets.

He told police one of the men called him the N-word before hitting him in the face three or four times with his fist.

“I was approached by one male who started to call me a racial slur,” he told police in a written statement contained in the police department case report.

“I walked away when I was hit three to four times in the jaw,” he said.

“Then the one male kept approaching me and swinging at my face, calling me a racial slur, telling me I was going to die,” he said.

“I felt like my life was in danger because there were several males. Instead of defending myself, I called the police.”

In a second written statement, he said as he walked around the group, “the person who hit me told me to ‘come back here [N-word]’ …”

Smith, who said the group fled as he called police on his cellphone, was treated for a facial abrasion and a black eye at Olympic Medical Center.

Police had initially investigated the incident as a possible felony malicious harassment under state law, in which physical injury to a person is caused due to identity factors including the person’s race, religion or sexual orientation.

Authorities said the case took a turn away from a hate-crime charge after it was investigated further.

“We gained additional information that was there that told us more about what happened, a lot more about what happened,” Police Chief Brian Smith said in a recent interview.

“We learned a lot more about the sequence of the events and the amount of interaction that occurred.”

The case was also investigated by the FBI, which interviewed Stone.

Stone admitted to the FBI agent that he hit Quinn Smith but presented a sharply different account of the incident.

In the interview, according to a synopsis contained in police records, Stone said Smith approached Stone and a group of people as Stone was leaving a house party in the 600 block of South Cedar Street and asked for a ride home.

Stone said he would give Smith a ride if he agreed to an arm wrestling match with Stone, which the two engaged in and which Smith lost.

Smith got upset and pushed Stone, causing a shoving match between the two, Stone said.

“Stone admits to hitting Smith twice in the face area,” according to the synopsis.

“Stone was upset about the incident and got in his truck and left,” according to the report.

“Stone told [the FBI agent] that as he was leaving, he overheard David Love shouting ‘racial words’ at Smith but didn’t hear exactly what he was screaming.”

A friend of Smith’s also told the agent he had heard about the arm wrestling challenge and that “somehow Smith was punched in the face by one kid and called ‘vulgar names’ by another [kid].”

The friend said the “names” were the N-word.

In a May 14 interview, Clallam County Prosecuting Attorney Mark Nichols had referred to a charge of fourth-degree assault as the least injurious assault charge and compared it to “more like a schoolyard fight.”

“We will always charge a hate crime if we see a pathway forward to do so,” Nichols said Tuesday.

Quinn Smith said in a text message Tuesday that he is sticking to his story.

“One thing you can say is that my family is obliged that the prosecutor referred to the assault as a ‘playground scuffle’ and that he said there were some level of acquaintances,” Smith said.

“Overall, I said and I’ll say it again, life is unfair and this proves it in every case.

“I’ve moved on.

“I stand by what happened because it is nothing but the truth.

“I’ve moved on.”

FBI spokeswoman Ayn Dietrich-Williams would not comment on the case.

“The investigation remains technically open while the charges are being pursued at the state level,” she said.

The case also was referred to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Agency spokeswoman Emily Langlie would not comment on the case.

“My understanding is that the U.S. Attorney’s Office has reviewed the matter and has not seen fit to file [charges],” Nichols said.

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