WENATCHEE — Prosecutors didn’t have the probable cause they needed to press a felony graffiti charge against Jesse J. Wawers — so on the morning of Oct. 21, they let him go.
The probable cause arrived that afternoon.
Wawers, 23, sat in jail for more than two months, awaiting trial for second-degree malicious mischief after he was accused of carving gang graffiti into the antique marble and wood of two Chelan County Courthouse men’s room.
But now the graffiti’s been erased, and so has the felony case against the accused vandal. Chelan County deputy prosecutor Ed Stevensen asked Judge T.W.“Chip” Small to strike the charge after he couldn’t show the bathroom damage met the $750 dollar amount required to reach the felony level.
“I felt uncomfortable holding him any longer without having some numbers,” Stevensen said Friday. “… I didn’t want to just keep pushing it off with him sitting in custody.”
The county pressed its charge Aug. 23. Wenatchee police had arrested Wawers Aug. 17 in connection with more than 20 different gang-graffiti defacements around the city, and soon noticed the marks attributed to Wawers seemed to match those found in the courthouse restrooms July 25.
Even if convicted, Wawers — who has no felony history in Washington — was unlikely to be sentenced to more than 60 days in jail on the felony charge. He’d been held for 55 days by his Oct. 21 court date.
Stevensen said he plans to refer the case to the Wenatchee city attorney’s office to see if misdemeanor prosecution is warranted.
When the damage was discovered, county officials said it could cost more than $60,000 to replace the marble, which is original to the 89-year-old building. But county maintenance staffers buffed the marble, sanded the stall doors and replaced two defaced towel dispensers at a total cost of about $1,600 — a figure Stevensen received just hours after dismissing the felony charge.
“If I’d had this beforeheand, well, it would change the whole dynamic,” he said.