Daily Archives: December 24, 2008

The Peanut Butter Bandit Is Charged!

The peanut butter bandit in the small Cascade Mountain town of Wenatchee just received four days in jail. Here’s the story:

A former Wenatchee High School student will spend four days in jail for smearing peanut butter on the forehead of a fellow student who he knew was allergic to peanuts.

Joshua Hickson, 19, of Malaga, was convicted of simple assault Tuesday in Chelan County District Court.

“What were you thinking when you did this?” Judge Nancy Harmon asked Hickson before sentencing.

He did not answer, only grinning and shaking his head. Harmon pressed, several times questioning Hickson about his motivation. He did not answer.

“Well, why did you do this?” she said again, asking Hickson if he was trying to be funny, or if he wanted to watch the victim die.

Hickson then answered that he didn’t know about peanut allergies.

“I’ll accept the fact that maybe you didn’t know,” Harmon said.

Hickson had entered an Alford plea, meaning he maintained his innocence but conceded that a jury would likely convict him at trial because of the weight of the evidence. The outcome resulted from a deal between the defense and prosecution. Both sides recommended a four-day sentence.

During lunch at Wenatchee High School on Sept. 8, Hickson heard a conversation in which it was mentioned that a student sitting near him was allergic to peanuts.

Hickson then grabbed someone’s peanut butter sandwich, put his fingers in the peanut butter and wiped it on the boy’s forehead, according to a Wenatchee Police report.

The boy did not suffer an allergic reaction.

“The incident turned out to be fairly innocuous but could have been fatal,” Wenatchee Police Officer Steve Evitt wrote in the report. The victim told police he had suffered a severe reaction to peanuts in the past.

In court Tuesday, Hickson denied touching the boy. But several witnesses told police he did.

“He understands what he did was wrong,” said Lee O’Brien, Hickson’s lawyer. Before sentencing, O’Brien called the four-day jail sentence “severe,” saying that such school-place incidents are common and routinely handled by administrators. In this case, WHS officials sought the charge, according to the police report. The victim’s family did not.

Harmon said she honored the four-day jail sentence recommendation in part because a recent mental health evaluation concluded that Hickson suffers some cognitive deficiencies.

“Had it not been for that, the court would have punished you severely,” Harmon said. She could have imposed a jail sentence of up to one year.