BELLINGHAM - A man who choked Whatcom County Assessor Keith Willnauer by grabbing his necktie must serve 10 days in jail and 20 days of jail alternatives.
Lincoln Lewis Rutter, 56, a Semiahmoo Parkway resident, pleaded guilty to attempted intimidation of a public servant Thursday, April 25. Prosecutors said Rutter had bullied people in the assessor's office for a long time before finally lashing out at Willnauer.
On a morning in early June 2012, Rutter confronted Willnauer at the assessor's office over his decision to change the tax status on some land. Certain portions of the parceled land had been changed from tax-exempt to non-exempt, Willnauer explained. Rutter demanded immediate proof. Willnauer said he might need some time, leading Rutter to "lose his composure," as his lawyer, Jeff Lustick, put it in court Thursday.
Rutter - a 6-foot-4, 245-pound man - grabbed Willnauer's tie hard enough to tear his shirt collar and pull his feet off the ground. The assessor's face slammed onto the countertop. Rutter yelled something to the effect of, "You can't do this to me!" and threatened "ramifications," according to charging documents.
Many people witnessed the assault, including Willnauer's coworkers. Afterward, Rutter agreed to sit in a chair outside the office and wait for sheriff's deputies.
Rutter had no criminal history. He pleaded guilty this week to a class C felony. Superior Court Judge Deborra Garrett allowed him to apply to serve 20 days of his jail sentence under house arrest. Rutter owns a $1.58 million waterfront home with five bathrooms and a hot tub on Semiahmoo Drive, according to the assessor's office.
The class of felony and specific felony charge were corrected April 30, 2013.