SOUTH BEND — Two ongoing criminal cases were settled last week after defendants accepted resolutions, with one getting credit for time served while another will spend over the next year in prison. Other were fast-moving, with most being set over a week or two and others getting pretrial and trial dates.
Judge Don Richter and his staff were present inside the courtroom along with attorneys David Hatch and Harold Karlsvik. Defendants inside the jail were present via Zoom, along with a few who were out-of-custody. The rest were present inside the courtroom for their appearances, including Steven Wirkkala.
Court this week remained relatively ordinary, with hearings moving along smoothly. One strange thing that happened was on the courts’ YouTube feed where a watcher with the tag “Millennial Trillionaire” commented on the open but not monitored chat feed that “Pacific County is corrupt!”
Stephen M. Camenzind
Stephen M. Camenzind has been in jail since Dec. 12, 2020, after being involved in an incident during which law officers said he held a woman at gunpoint before she was able to escape. He was set to appear before the court for a pretrial hearing and is represented by attorney Erik Kupka.
The hearing began with Munger informing the court that the hearing was scheduled for a pretrial appearance, but Camenzind would not be attending the hearing. Kupka instead acted on his behalf and entered a 1077 form for a competency evaluation and as part of the request that his client be sent directly to the Western State Hospital to be evaluated, noting there were “substantial reasons for the request.”
Richter informed Kupka that the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services has significant issues getting defendants into WSH in a timely manner and that it “will likely delay the evaluation.” Kupka reiterated his request and also noted that it was also being requested that an independent medical professional perform the evaluation.
Munger agreed with Kupka’s request and noted that there have been several incidents involving Camenzind in jail, and safety was an issue. She agreed that it would be best that he be taken directly to WSH. Richter again reiterated it has taken months to get someone into WSH, with Munger stating the prosecution is aware but felt the request was appropriate.
Kupka ended the hearing by noting he felt the request was in his client’s best interest. The court and both sides agreed that if it were to take too long for Camenzind to be transferred, they could readdress the request at a later court appearance.
William D. Lachapelle
William D. Lachapelle is the third defendant involved in the Chinook drug raids from Feb. 5 and was present before the court via Zoom for a change of plea and sentencing. His attorney Kupka was present inside the courtroom.
The hearing began with Kupka informing the court that his client was pleading guilty to the terms of a resolution that involved one count of possession with the intent to deliver methamphetamine. As part of the agreement, the prosecution recommended Lachapelle be sentenced to 20 months plus one day in prison followed by 12 months of community custody.
Kupka continued by requesting the court accept the agreement because his client was “embracing” the plea and that it was a “good wake-up call for him.” He also noted that Lachapelle planned to take advantage of Department of Corrections programs available to him while incarcerated. The prosecution mirrored Kupka’s request and urged the court to accept the resolution.
Richter noted that the standard range for the charge and Lachapelle’s agreed upon offender score of 3 would be anywhere from 20-60 months in prison. After hearing the arguments from both sides, he accepted the agreements as written.
“I hope you take advantage of the programs you will be offered in DOC,” Richter said. “Good luck to you, Mr. Lachapelle.”
Benjamin J. Florek
Benjamin J. Florek was arrested in November 2020 after his wife called 911 due to him being heavily intoxicated and her being concerned for his safety. After officers arrived, he reportedly assaulted them along with jail staff while being booked. He was present in the courtroom for a change of plea and sentencing and was represented by attorney Sean Taschner.
Taschner informed the court that he was able to reach an agreement with the prosecution, and his client would be pleading guilty to three counts of criminal mischief. As part of the resolution and In Re Barr plea, the prosecution recommended Florek be sentenced to 3 days in jail with credit for time served, meaning he would remain a free man.
The agreement would further require Florek to complete a substance and mental health evaluation and complete any recommended treatments. Before the hearing, Florek had already sought out and began substance abuse treatment.
Richter questioned how the court was going to ensure Florek abides by and completes all the stipulations of the resolution when no community custody was recommended. Hatch and Munger mentioned that they wanted a review hearing in 90 days to make sure Florek is on track and that if he violates the agreement, “he has 362 days hanging over his head.”
Before making his decision, Richter gave Florek a chance to address the court, and he stated, “I don’t have a lot to say other than I’m sorry.” Richter also asked if the victims (officers) had been notified and wished to speak. Munger noted that they did not want to speak and that they were in support of the resolution.
Richter accepted and followed the recommendation of the resolution. Since his arrest and release from jail, Florek is reported to have kept a straight line and found himself a full-time job. It was noted in his current and former court appearances that his desire to initiate himself onto a more linear path is commendable.
Steven D. Wirkkala
Steven D. Wirkkala was arrested on Jan. 24 after an investigation by the Long Beach Police Department and Pacific County Sheriff’s Office found probable cause to believe that he had been engaged in the commercial sex abuse of a minor and was booked into jail that day.
Wirkkala was before the court with Hatch for a pretrial hearing with his current trial dates scheduled for July 14 and 15. Hatch informed the court that the case was progressing toward going to trial and that he wants another review hearing on May 28.