A Kelso man accused of swinging an ax at a woman and threatening to kill a man was sentenced to 15 days in jail Monday after a jury convicted him of lesser crimes.
The sentencing ends a bizarre case in which the judge scolded one of the victims for instigating the encounter.
Brian Keith L’Heureux, 48, could have faced up to 10 years in prison had he been convicted of second-degree assault and felony harassment, as originally charged.
The case dates to July 1, when Kelso residents Curtis Hart and Amanda Docksteader drove around the community while Hart read the Declaration of Independence over a megaphone. Hart also allegedly called L’Heureux a child rapist and vulgar names.
Later that day, Docksteader and Hart stopped at a Kelso residence near Oak Street and 10th Avenue. After Hart entered the residence, L’Heureux showed up, upset with Hart and pacing angrily outside while holding an ax, Docksteader testified. In a phone interview with a Daily News reporter, L’Heureux acknowledged he had also used methamphetamine that day.
Docksteader testified that she heard L’Heureux yell, “Where is Curtis Hart? I’m going to kill him,” and that he later threatened to kill her as well and swung the ax at her. He later walked off without confronting Hart.
Home surveillance footage of the event only showed L’Heureux pacing back and forth outside of the house holding the ax, but not swinging it. Docksteader said in court the swinging occurred off camera.
A jury in November convicted L’Heureux of unlawful display of a weapon and harassment, both gross misdemeanors. Cowlitz Superior Court Judge Anne Cruser sentenced him Monday.
Prosecutor David Phelan asked for 180 days in jail, a request Cruser said would have been much lower had the case not originated from felony charges. She sentenced L’Heureux to 15 days in jail.
Even though the jury acquitted him of assault, Cruser told L’Heuruex, “You did have an ax.”
“My client knows he has issues,” defense attorney Joshua Gooday said. “That’s why he’s getting treatment.”
Cruser also said she was concerned throughout the trial that the video evidence “undermined” Docksteader’s and Hart’s claims. And she said she had “significant concerns” about the victims’ conduct throughout the trial and during the day of the crime.
“I think there’s no question that Mr. Hart was the instigator and provoker of this,” Cruser said. “It’s not how reasonable people conduct themselves.”
L’Heureux told officers when arrested that he was infuriated that Hart used his loudspeaker to call him a “child rapist” and vulgar names during the July 1 incident.
When interviewed by police, Hart denied calling L’Heureux a child rapist. He said Monday over Facebook that he did not bother L’Heureux “at all” that day. In any case, the claims were ruled inadmissible in court as prejudicial.
L’Heureux was convicted in 1990 of “Attempted Indecency with a Child by Exposure” in Travis County, Texas, a misdemeanor. He was 19 at the time of the offense, according to court documents.
L’Heureux said in a phone interview Wednesday the charge stemmed from his relationship with his 15-year-old girlfriend who he said he met when he was 17.
He said he was taken off of the Texas registered sex offender list in 2007 but was only taken off the Washington list last January. He said he should have been taken off the Washington list years earlier but court mismanagement incorrectly identified him as an offender.
He said he’s “ecstatic” about the outcome of the Cowlitz County case.
“I am ecstatic that the judge sees ... how (Hart) was the aggressor. I did make a mistake, and I owned up to my mistake. ... (But) I’m happy it all happened. I probably wouldn’t be alive today. Kelso PD talked to me, opened my eyes, (and) basically saved my butt.”
L’Heureux is a member of the Cowlitz Foot Patrol community watch group. During sentencing, he apologized about last year’s incident but told Cruser that his bad actions had taken him to “a good place” and has not used drugs in the six months since his arrest.
Neither Hart nor Docksteader were present at sentencing, but Hart delivered a message to the court through his attorney arguing that “people should not have to worry about expressing themselves.”
Hart has waged several personal campaigns against sex offenders. He and his “punisher squad” have sought to lure would-be child sex offenders. He also is involved in a well-publicized attempt to obtain the registry of all level 1 sex offenders in the county. That case is under review by the state court of appeals.
During the trial’s last day, Hart was asked to leave during the testimony of a witness called by the defense. Judge Cruser ordered Hart not to stand outside of the door and stare at the witness as she testified.
Hart said over Facebook that he was only looking inside the room to see if the witness was done testifying. He also disagreed with Cruser’s decision to bar from evidence L’Heureux’s statements to police about his meth use.