Tri-Cities Man’s Talking Spree Foils Plea Agreement and Extends Prison Term

A 45-year-old resident of the Tri-Cities area found himself entangled in a web of legal consequences due to his loquacious tendencies, as he squandered a favorable plea deal with a barrage of statements. Brandon VanWinkle, nearing the end of a plea arrangement that would have reduced his sentence, committed a verbal misstep that led to an additional six months being tacked onto his prison term.

The case unfolded when VanWinkle denied responsibility for threatening Deputy Prosecutor Brittnie Roehm during the final stages of the plea deal. Judge Jacqueline Stam responded with a stern tone, expressing her concern about his lack of accountability and subsequently extending his sentence.

While the extension was a marked increase from the initial plea agreement, it still fell short of the maximum potential sentence he could have faced for his crimes.

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The guilty plea, entered on Thursday, marked the conclusion of VanWinkle’s yearlong series of offenses, including menacing a judge, and two deputy prosecutors, and vandalizing a jail restroom. These incidents followed his arrest for theft from a clothing store at Columbia Center Mall.

During his time in custody, VanWinkle made assertions that he was the Messiah sent to study the criminal justice system on Earth.

VanWinkle admitted to charges such as misdemeanor assault, third-degree theft, second-degree malicious mischief, intimidating a judge, and two counts of intimidating a public servant.

Deputy Prosecutor Brendan Siefken and Defense Attorney Ian Sinclair noted the positive impact of VanWinkle’s treatment at Eastern State psychiatric hospital, which seemed to mitigate his impulsive behavior.

Siefken pointed out that he had observed a transformation in VanWinkle’s demeanor within the courtroom. Sinclair echoed this sentiment, suggesting that the resolution of these crimes could potentially grant VanWinkle a fresh start in life.

Although much of VanWinkle’s sentencing hearing revolved around his continued denial of guilt, he acknowledged the positive role of his mental health treatment and medication. Despite his protests, the courtroom atmosphere carried an air of acceptance of his admission.

VanWinkle’s legal woes spanned multiple cases, with two deputy prosecutors agreeing to a reduced sentence of two years and one month. The potential sentence range was originally around 6 1/2 to 8 1/2 years due to various charges, including intimidating a judge. The reduction was attributed to factors such as witnesses unwilling to testify and the apparent positive impact of mental health treatment.

However, the situation changed during the final case, where Roehm, one of the victims, believed the proposed sentence was inadequate. In response, VanWinkle claimed that unnamed women had issued the threats to Roehm, and he was merely relaying a warning. He asserted that he didn’t believe these women would carry out the threats.

Judge Stam countered by highlighting VanWinkle’s lack of comprehension regarding the repercussions of his actions against those carrying out their professional duties. Despite his subsequent attempt to apologize, Stam ruled that his apology came too late and added seven more months to his sentence, reaching a total of two years and eight months in prison.

Stam noted her acknowledgment of his transformation, indicating that future transgressions would not receive the same leniency. VanWinkle’s yearlong series of offenses highlighted the complex interplay between his mental health, criminal actions, and legal consequences, underscoring the importance of effective rehabilitative measures and accountability within the justice system.

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