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.

5 thoughts on “The Peanut Butter Bandit Is Charged!

  1. Betty

    What a strange story. As a substitute, I have noticed that there are a lot of children allergic to peanuts. I wouldn’t be surprised if eventually peanut butter is not allowed in schools at all.

  2. ms_teacher

    I have had students who were extremely allergic to nuts. This is not something to be taken lightly because it can cause the death.

    On a somewhat related note, when we flew out to D.C. this past summer, there was a woman on our plane who was extremely allergic to nuts. The flight attendant informed the passengers of the plane that absolutely no nuts could be consumed on the flight. There was actually a couple who heard the message, but started to eat their bag of nuts that they had brought from home. When the flight attendant passed by them, she politely asked them to put them away and the couple actually started arguing with her! They ended up getting a free meal out of it.

    (Also, I wanted to answer your question about the RA next summer. At this point, I haven’t made up my mind yet! How about you?)

  3. drpezz Post author

    I have yet to decide but do think I’ll put my name into the mix. I put my name in for the state rep assembly, which I’ve never attended, so that will be one more learning experience.

    After I talk to my wife a bit more I’ll decide whether or not to put my name in the election hat. 🙂

    Regarding the post, my uncle can’t even be in the same room with a can of opened nuts or near a jar of opened peanut butter. His throat starts to close. Very scary.

  4. The Science Goddess

    The story does bring up some interesting things to think about in terms of how schools might choose to deal with dangerous behavior. It seems like loads of administrative time is taken up with various investigations—and in some cases, things that should probably be reported the police are kept quiet to keep the district from potential embarrassment in the newspaper. Is that more important than students facing actual consequences for their actions? Should we trade the feeling of security for many students for a stern lecture for one? I don’t think the police need to be called in for all infractions—that’s certainly not an appropriate use of resources, either…but one has to wonder how schools might function differently if real world responses were a visible reaction to the more intense issues.


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