Rivas trial delayed until March

October 10, 2018

Ernesto Rivas appears in Skagit County Superior Court in January 2017.

MOUNT VERNON — The trial of a man accused of shooting a Mount Vernon police officer in the head nearly two years ago has been delayed for an 11th time.

Ernesto Lee Rivas, 46, faces 11 charges — including two counts of attempted first-degree murder — in relation to the Dec. 15, 2016, shooting of officer Michael “Mick” McClaughry.

Rivas’ new trial date is set for March 2019.

According to documents filed in Skagit County Superior Court last week, Rivas’ public defenders will argue at trial that Rivas acted in self-defense.

“Their defense is going to be that he’s defending himself or technically others,” Skagit County Prosecuting Attorney Rich Weyrich said.

Prosecutors allege Rivas shot McClaughry in the head after McClaughry knocked on his door while investigating a shooting that had occurred earlier in the evening near the intersection of LaVenture Road and Fir Street.

Rivas then allegedly engaged officers in an hourslong standoff that ended in his arrest and the arrests of two teens with him.

The teens have been sentenced for their roles in the events of that evening.

Rivas last week waived his right to a speedy trial, allowing his trial to be postponed until March, Weyrich said.

“I believe everyone will be ready in March,” Weyrich said. “Our side will be ready in March.”

In serious cases such as this one, Weyrich said long delays are not uncommon.

In August, Weyrich opposed continuing Rivas’ trial to November, which was a request for a 10th continuance, according to court documents.

The documents state public defender Tammy Candler has been assigned to Rivas’ case from the start, but several others have been put on the case then taken off as co-counsel.

After each change to Rivas’ legal team, a judge has granted a continuance so the team could prepare for the case, the documents state.

Each continuance has been made despite objections by Rivas, Weyrich said in the documents.

The most recent continuance was requested because of health issues faced by one of Rivas’ attorneys, documents state.

“The State believes that the defense could easily find substitute co-counsel for this case,” Weyrich asserted in the motion. “Specifically, it appears to this office that Keith Tyne, the Director of the Public Defender’s Office, has the experience with serious felony cases as well as the ability to adjust his caseload such that he could act as co-counsel in this matter.”

Tyne told the Skagit Valley Herald he did not wish to comment.

In his objection to a continuance, Weyrich stated that continuing to postpone the trial may have a negative effect on McClaughry’s recovery from injuries suffered in the shooting, and that state law contends the rights of victims need to be considered.

After the shooting, McClaughry spent two months at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle and has yet to regain his sight, which was lost as a result of the shooting.

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