A man who ordered a bombing that severely injured his probation officer in Montesano 15 years ago will soon receive a new trial.
The state Supreme Court has overturned the 45-year prison sentence given to Steven Pink and remanded the matter back to Grays Harbor Superior Court for a new trial, which has been slated for this November.
Pink was convicted of first-degree conspiracy to commit murder and first-degree assault for ordering another man to plant a bomb at the house of probation officer Tom Perrine. A Vidette story at the time said that on Jan. 26, 1999, Perrine was leaving his house, entered his carport and came in contact with an item strategically placed on the ground in front of the driver’s side of the vehicle. At that point, a homemade bomb was detonated packed with nails and screws. The explosion was so large that debris was found two houses away.
Despite the explosion, Perrine stumbled toward the back door of the residence and collapsed into his home. A neighbor, who was a full-time firefighter, came over and helped save his life.
In the end, court records say that Perrine lost a finger, hurt one of his eyes and his face and doctors had to rebuild his right leg.
Perrine still works for the state Department of Corrections at the headquarters in Olympia. He didn’t return messages seeking comment.
Almost immediately, police officers suspected Pink, a convicted drug dealer well known in drug circles at the time, had something to do with the bombing. Even Perrine had suspected Pink might be involved and Pink was arrested on an outstanding drug-related warrant, where he was placed in isolation for a couple of days.
It was Pink, himself, who connected himself to the bombing, according to Hoquiam Police Chief Jeff Myers, who was a lieutenant for the Montesano Police Department at the time of the bombing and was the lead case officer.
Myers said that Pink had submitted a note to a detective saying he could lead them to the person who built the bomb.
In the end, the man who set the bomb, Gary Davis, pleaded guilty to attempted murder and was given a 40-year sentence. A girlfriend of Davis’ also pleaded guilty to driving a getaway car and got nine years in prison.
Pink had told investigators in a statement that he had traded $250 and some methamphetamine for the military-grade explosives and then gave them free-of-charge to Davis “to do a hit job with a bomb.” Jurors said this was a critical factor of the case because, after 15 hours of deliberations, they almost found him not guilty on the assault charge.
In court, Pink was careful to never admit to his involvement because of the possibility of appeal.
“I want to apologize to Tom and his family,” Pink said at his sentencing in 1999. “I’m not here to make excuses like the other defendants. But I’m really sorry to Tom, that’s why I stood up.”
At sentencing, then-Grays Harbor Superior Court Judge David Foscue called Pink a “coward” and told him that had Perrine died, this case would have ended up being a death penalty case.
Attorneys for Pink have been trying for the past 15 years to poke holes in the case, appealing on grounds of what were claimed to be illegitimate search warrants and other issues. In 2006, attorneys were able to convince the Appeals Court that Pink’s original 62-year sentence was too harsh in the wake of a U.S. Supreme Court decision known as Blakely that no longer allowed a judge alone to find a crime deserved an exceptional sentence.
He was brought back to Superior Court and received a 45-year and three-quarters of a month sentence. The decision, basically, shaved 17 years off his previous sentence.
Despite the reduced sentence, attorneys have continued appealing the root of the case, alleging police overreach, constitutional problems and the fact that there were witness statements, but no audio or video to back up those statements. At one point, attorneys appealed the case claiming a woman Pink had married allegedly to give himself an alibi shouldn’t have been allowed to testify. However, it turned out Pink was already married, which meant the second marriage wouldn’t qualify for spousal privilege. The appeals have consistently been denied.
However, the most recent appeal — a personal restraint petition stuck.
An order from the state Supreme Court states “that the trial court conducted voir dire of 19 prospective jurors in chambers. And the state does not dispute that before holding in-chambers voir dire, the trial court failed to conduct the analysis required (by court precedent). It is further undisputed that Mr. Pink’s appellate counsel did not raise the public trial issue on direct appeal. Under these undisputed facts, Mr. Pink is entitled to relief in the form of a new trial.”
Interim Grays Harbor Prosecutor Gerald Fuller explains that 19 prospective jurors were brought into the chambers of then-Judge Foscue. Fuller and then-Prosecutor Stew Menefee were present as was Pink and his attorney.
They were all able to ask the jurors questions. Fuller said they met in the judge’s chambers because these were jurors that potentially knew something about the case and they didn’t want to “contaminate” the rest of the jury pool waiting.
However, the state Supreme Court’s ruling basically states that everything should have been done in public. Because the public wasn’t allowed to be present for the very beginning of the case, a new trial has been mandated.
“There was a presumption of bias,” Fuller said, adding, “I’ve never before had to deal with a re-trial of a case this old before.”
The state Supreme Court decision came a bit under the radar since the court ruled in April during an “en banc conference” — that is a panel of the full court, which reviewed the petition. No formal or unpublished opinion was ever issued — and can’t be found on the court’s website.
And the two-page final opinion wasn’t issued to the Grays Harbor Superior Court Clerk’s Office until May 14. Fuller said he was asked to submit a briefing, but never had an opportunity to make his case before the court.
“It was unexpected,” Fuller said. “The opinion just showed up.”
15 years later
Montesano Police have been working with the Sheriff’s Office and the Grays Harbor Prosecutor’s Office to track down witnesses and gather the boxes of evidence originally used in the case 15 years ago. Montesano Police officers attended a police conference in Spokane recently and used it as an opportunity to see if they can find a witness that was supposed to be in the area.
“The biggest challenge is here we are 15 years later and a lot of people have simply moved on,” Montesano Police Chief Brett Vance said. “I was not even at the city of Montesano at the time. I was at the Sheriff’s Office at the time. I was aware of the case, but I just had a small piece of the puzzle. … We’ve contacted 90 percent of the people, but there’s still more to contact. Mr. Perrine was one of the first people we contacted because it affects him the most. Time heals, but he’ll never forget it.”
City staff spent four days photocopying eight reams of paper of witness statements and other details of the case.
“The city has already had to bear the expense of this case once and now we’re doing it again 15 years later,” Vance said.
“The clerk has all the exhibits and we’re on track for a trial this November,” Fuller adds.
Today, Fuller still has a framed copy of The Daily World issue from when Pink was found guilty hanging on his office. “With appreciation from the Montesano Police Department,” an inscription says.
Since the case was overturned, Pink was returned to the custody of the Grays Harbor County Jail, where he remains today. Superior Court Judge Gordon Godfrey has set bail at $2 million for Pink.
Fuller has since filed amended charges alleging aggravating circumstances in the original assault and conspiracy to commit murder. Fuller says the aggravating circumstances would allow a judge to issue an even higher sentence than the current 45 years.
Pink had been assigned public defender David Arcuri. But Arcuri had to recuse himself when Pink claimed to know information about a recent reckless burning case, according to recent court documents. Arcuri represented the client in the reckless burning case. Pink wanted to exchange the information for a plea deal with the prosecutor. Fuller said no deal was offered. Pink’s public defender is now Christopher Baum of Chehalis.