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Man gets 43 days in jail for assaulting convicted rapist

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POLSON — A 27-year-old Polson man was convicted at trial Tuesday, Jan. 16 of misdemeanor assault of convicted rapist Vaughn James. 

Kasey Pier was tried for felony assault with a weapon for allegedly stabbing James outside the Pier 93 downtown Conoco gas station on July 22, 2016. The six-man, six-woman jury was unable to reach a decision on the assault with a weapon charge — Pier denied stabbing James with a knife — but convicted him on the lesser offense because Pier said he punched James. 

Since it was a misdemeanor, Judge James A. Manley sentenced Pier at the conclusion of the one-day trial to six months in jail with all time suspended except for 43 days served. Pier was then released. 

During the trial, prosecuting attorney Ben Anciaux displayed several photos of three injuries to James’ cheek, forearm and arm. 

Dr. Ken Galewyrick of St. Joseph’s Medical Center testified that he treated James for 8 mm and 2.5 cm cuts that he called superficial wounds which he closed with glue. 

During testimony, Pier said he knew James as someone who had sexually assaulted one of his friends. Manley told the jury to disregard the comment, and Anciaux later said Pier was not referring to a woman that James was convicted of raping. 

Pier said he came upon James outside Pier 93 pumping gas and called him a derogatory term after which James shoved him and he shoved back. 

“He swung his backpack at me twice,” Pier said. “He slapped the right side of his face and said, ‘Go ahead. I’ll give you one free shot.’ I thought he was drunk,” Pier said. “I swung at him and hit him. He dropped. I raised my hands and walked into the store.”

Anciaux asked Pier if he was wearing a ring, and he said no. 

Pier testified that he had been sharing a jail cell with Brandon Bagnell, who kept rattling the door to annoy James in an adjacent cell. 

“One time I said it could be bad for my case,” Pier said. “He (Bagnell) doesn’t care. He doesn’t like Vaughn.” 

James also testified, and under questioning by defense attorney Ted Chester, said he didn’t want to testify because he had been mentally ill and for other reasons. (Anciaux had him subpoenaed.) 

James said he didn’t feel safe in the jail because he was suffering ongoing intimidation from Pier, whom he accused of yelling threats at him and kicking the door of an adjacent cell. 

Under questioning from Anciaux, James said he wasn’t mentally ill during the trial but had been diagnosed with a mental illness previously.

James said he came out of Pier 93 and said Pier came toward him and attacked him. 

“I was shocked because I barely know the young man,” he said, adding that he was going to say “hi” to him. 

Jack Miller, who worked as a cashier at Pier 93, testified that he called 911 after someone said a fight was going on. 

“He came in and was bleeding. He had a slash on his arm,” Miller said, referring to James. 

Miller said he reported a stabbing but didn’t see it happen. 

Polson Police Officer Michael Wharton testified that he interviewed James at the hospital and that James told him he was stabbed in three places and described a 4-inch, black and white knife. 

Pier testified that Wharton searched him for a knife but didn’t find one. 

Judge Kim Christopher dismissed charges of felony burglary and misdemeanor theft against Pier on Jan. 11 without prejudice after Anciaux made a motion to that effect. In his request, Anciaux said he was not able to locate items taken in a July 22, 2017 burglary from a home in the 400 block of Main Street in Polson. According to a court document, Pier had pawned a punching bag at Depoe Junction on July 24, 2017 and a boxing glove was found at his residence. Total value of the items was less than $500.

Pier pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault in a June 5, 2014 incident in which he admitted to walking into a house and punching a man in the face. That conviction came as part of a plea agreement in which the original charge of burglary was amended. He was given a six-month jail sentence with all time suspended. 

James, 45, who was convicted of rape at trial last July, had his sentence postponed in October so he could get a mental health evaluation. He had defeated the same rape charge at a June trial and two others in unrelated cases in 2011. His sentencing is pending. 

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