Harp seeks leniency

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Harp

SANDPOINT — A Washington state man ordered to serve up to 15 years in prison for a near-fatal stabbing in Laclede pleaded for leniency on Tuesday, according to 1st District Court records.

Counsel for Shawn Montgomery Harp argued in court documents that character references, a medical condition and the fact that he had a job lined up did not appear to factor into his sentencing hearing.

Judge Barbara Buchanan ordered Harp to serve a 10- to 15-year sentence in August. Harp was originally charged with attempted first-degree murder in connection with the Easter Sunday stabbing, but pleaded to a reduced charge of aggravated battery.

Harp’s former attorney, Chief Public Defender Janet Whitney recommended a two- to seven-year term or retained jurisdiction, which could have seen Harp released onto probation after serving up to a year in prison. Buchanan, however, ruled that a lesser sentence would depreciate the seriousness of the offense and expressed doubt that Harp could wean himself off drugs when he had ample time to do so before the stabbing.

Harp, a 34-year-old Spokane Valley resident, is accused of driving a knife into the chest and back in an unprovoked attack. The blade nearly struck the victim’s heart and spinal cord, according to testimony in the case.

Harp’s new attorney, Bryce Powell, filed scores of letters attesting to his client’s character and the fact that he was experiencing a drug-induced psychotic break when he attacked the man.

Friends and family said Harp was a fundamentally kind person, but was in the midst of a methamphetamine-induced delusion when he lashed out. To bolster the claim, Harp’s handwritten notes were submitted.

Harp claimed in the note that somebody was drugging his food at the jail and speculated that it was either some government agency, the mob, demons or God’s archangels. Medical records documenting a rare congenital condition affecting Harp’s blood vessels were also submitted, although Chief Deputy Prosecutor Shane Greenbank said the condition was acknowledged in a presentence investigation.

Greenbank objected to a reduction in sentence.

“It cannot be legitimately claimed that the sentence was harsh or excessive based upon all the facts that were considered by the court — the most notable of which is the fact that he stabbed another person in the chest and almost killed them,” Greenbank said in court documents.

Powell argued, however, that Harp was “not a depraved maniac,” according to court records.

Buchanan took the arguments under advisement and plans to issue a ruling on the leniency request within the next 30 days.

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