PORT TOWNSEND — A 22-year-old man accused of stabbing another rider on the Port Townsend-Coupeville ferry route in early September has been sentenced to four years, nine months in prison after he pleaded guilty to second-degree assault with a deadly weapon.
Gabriel Thomas Dignum, a former Jefferson County resident now living in Burlington, pleaded guilty to the stabbing of Christopher Haltom on the Kennewick state ferry on Sept. 9.
He was sentenced on Friday by Jefferson County Superior Court Judge Keith Harper to 57 months in prison and 18 months community custody following his release. Dismissed in the plea deal was a pending criminal case on a charge of third-degree assault in Skagit County for allegedly assaulting a corrections officer.
Second-degree assault with a deadly weapon is a Class B felony and counts as a strike in the state’s three strikes law that could lead to life in prison.
It is Dignum’s second strike.
Dignum said he plans to seek counseling while in prison to try to better himself.
“This is it. I don’t have any chances left,” Dignum said. “It’s time to make this the end of it.”
Anna Phillips, Jefferson County deputy prosecuting attorney, hoped the sentence would help Dignum, saying he has a history of violent offenses and was released from prison two weeks before the stabbing on the ferry.
“We hope that this will be an opportunity for him to reflect on his life,” Phillips said.
Dignum stabbed Haltom, whose age and hometown are unknown, during an altercation on the ferry. Haltom was treated and discharged from Jefferson Healthcare hospital in Port Townsend that night, according to the probable cause statement written by State Patrol Trooper Alisha Gruszewski.
Dignum was traveling on the Kennewick ferry from Coupeville on Whidbey Island to Port Townsend at about 7:45 p.m. when he reportedly became involved in a verbal altercation with Haltom, Gruszewski said.
The argument escalated into a physical fight, and Dignum stabbed Haltom in the back with a knife, Gruszewski said in her report.
Crew members aboard the Kennewick separated the two and treated Haltom’s wound, she said.
At about 8 p.m., local law enforcement was alerted to the assault, and officers with the Port Townsend Police Department, Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office and State Patrol met the ferry in Port Townsend.
Dignum changed clothes after the altercation, apparently to avoid identification, authorities said.
Ferry personnel and riders pointed out Dignum to Port Townsend police officers, saying he matched the description except for his clothes, Gruszewski said.
Clothes matching the initial description were found in Dignum’s backpack, Gruszewski said.
Jefferson County reporter Zach Jablonski can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 5, or at [email protected].