Man faces to serve nine months in jail following plea deal



JAYCE CARRAL, Evergreen reporter

A former WSU Vancouver student continues to serve jail time after he was found guilty by a jury in March, according to a previous article by The Daily Evergreen. 23-year old Thomas Culhane pleaded guilty on June 6 to lesser charges of second-degree assault with the intent to commit rape.

Dan LeBeau, Whitman County Chief Deputy Prosecutor, said Culhane was originally charged with two counts of second-degree rape, one count of assault in the second degree and one count of furnishing liquor to minors.

“We went to jury trial and we got a conviction of rape in the second degree on the first count, but then they voted not guilty on the second count,” LeBeau said. “After it went to the jury for deliberation the jury came out with the question of what separated the two counts [of rape].”

He said the two counts of rape correlated to two different events involving the same female victim which occurred within a very short time period.

“It was the same night separated by one event which I talked about with the jury’” he said.

LeBeau said the distinction between the counts of second-degree rape were also not made clear in court documents. The jury instructions, which are general, along with specific instructions the jury received before their deliberation also failed to distinguish between the two counts, he said.

“If the jury voted not guilty on both counts, then it wouldn’t have mattered. If the jury voted guilty on both counts, it wouldn’t have mattered,” he said, “but they came back with that question of “Hey, what separates the two counts?”

LeBeau said the jury’s question resulted in the prosecution questioning which facts presented the jury found unanimously true and which facts were found untrue.

He said the lack of distinction between the two counts led to the defense motioning for a complete nullification of the jury’s verdict. LeBeau said Culhane’s defense had also already begun an appeal.

“Looking at the case law, it was very clear that the appellate court would probably set aside the judgment,” he said.

LeBeau said an appeal would have resulted in a retrial, but the prosecution risked double jeopardy, which would have lead to a dismissal of Culhane’s charges.

“It was very likely that not only would the [jury’s decision] be set aside but then that we wouldn’t get a new trial,” LeBeau said. “He would walk away scot-free.”

LeBeau said after speaking to other attorneys including the victim’s attorney, the prosecution decided to amend the previous charges to second-degree assault with intent to commit rape, which is a Class B felony in Washington.

As part of the plea agreement, Culhane agreed to drop all appeals as well as obey a lifetime protection order. The protection order instructs Culhane to have no future contact with the victim.

Culhane was sentenced to serve nine months in the Whitman County Jail.

After serving his sentence, Culhane will be released on supervised probation monitored by the Washington Department of Corrections for a year.