By Jeremy Schwartz
Peninsula Daily News
Want more top stories? Sign up here for daily or weekly newsletters with our top news.
Justin Owen Sawby, 36, of Port Angeles pleaded guilty May 29 to domestic violence-related second-degree assault/reckless infliction of bodily harm and unlawful imprisonment and was sentenced, according to Clallam County Superior Court documents.
Clallam County sheriff's deputy accounts said Sawby threatened a woman he knew previously with a screwdriver before raping her on a dirt road off Black Diamond Road in the evening of July 17.
Deputy accounts also said Sawby bound the woman's arms with a rope and tried to drag her along the dirt road after the pickup truck the two had been driving in got stuck in a creek.
Sawby said the sex with the woman was consensual.
The plea bargain “is a result that frankly I really didn't like,” said John Troberg, chief criminal deputy Clallam County prosecuting attorney, who was prosecuting the case, “but I felt that I didn't want to take a chance on either a hung jury or a not-guilty verdict.”
Sawby was initially charged with one count each of first-degree rape, first-degree kidnapping, second-degree assault with a deadly weapon with sexual motivation, second-degree assault-strangulation and harassment-threats to kill and pleaded not guilty.
Troberg said the plea agreement was based in part on the recent death of a woman that Troberg said gave a ride to both Sawby and the woman after the assault.
Troberg said this woman, whose death had nothing to do with the case, would have been able to testify to the victim's emotional state during a jury trial as someone who knew neither Sawby nor the victim before that night.
“It was a significant loss,” Troberg said.
“She would have been, let's say, a very useful witness for the state.”
Without this testimony, Troberg said, the trial would have come down to the victim's word against Sawby's.
Sawby also must pay $1,515 in court fees and victim restitution to be set at a July 18 Superior Court hearing.
According to deputy accounts, Sawby asked the woman for a ride to Black Diamond Road so he could see his son.
Once the two had reached Peele Road off Black Diamond Road, he threatened to kill the woman with a screwdriver he pulled from the vehicle's glove box, forced his way into the driver's seat and drove until the vehicle became stuck in a creek along a dirt road off Black Diamond Road, deputies said.
The woman told deputies Sawby strangled her until she almost lost consciousness, pulled her out of the vehicle and raped her.
The woman spoke with Deputy Brandon Stoppani the evening of July 17 at Olympic Medical Center after she had been treated for her injuries.
Sawby told Stoppani the next day during an interview that the woman insisted on having sexual relations and that she had threatened to kill herself with the screwdriver.
Sawby also told Stoppani he had no knowledge of the woman's injuries or how she got them.
Reporter Jeremy Schwartz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5074, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.