Man gets 9 months for slicing homeless man's face at Bellingham church meal

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDOctober 2, 2013 

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Kenneth Turner suffered cuts to his face after being assaulted outside the community meal program at Assumption Catholic Church in Bellingham last January. Turner is shown Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2013.

PHILIP A. DWYER — THE BELLINGHAM HERALD Buy Photo

BELLINGHAM - A Bellingham man pleaded guilty this week to slashing up another man's face at a community meal for homeless people.

Patrick Scott Brackett, 45, walked out of jail hours after admitting to second-degree assault for attacking Kenneth Turner over a $10 debt. Brackett has already served his sentence of nine months behind bars.

Turner, 39, said he needed more than 90 stitches for his wounds. Now he grows a stubbly beard to mask the scarring on his cheeks.

This week he shaved to show the scars to the jury. But at the last minute, on the morning the trial would have started, Brackett took a plea deal.

On the afternoon of Jan. 27, Brackett confronted Turner about the money - owed for "a bag of weed," Turner said - while he was getting a cup of coffee at a meal hosted by Bellingham's Church of the Assumption, 2116 Cornwall Ave.

Turner gave The Bellingham Herald a 5,100-word account of the incident and its aftermath: Brackett knocked the coffee to the ground and got in his face, so he shoved Brackett back. Brackett threw a punch.

Staff separated them, according to charging papers. Turner went outside to a stone bench where he smoked a rolled cigarette. Brackett came outside and rushed at him with a concealed knife. The men wrestled on the ground. At first Turner thought he felt fingernails scraping his face. Then he put his hands to his face and saw all of the blood. He thought he would die.

Police booked Brackett into jail. Meanwhile, Turner underwent surgery at St. Joseph hospital. One of the cuts slit the skin on the side of his forehead and just missed an artery in his temple. For weeks afterward, with stitches still all over his face, he struggled to find housing, and slept in a tent, "in freezing, moldy and moist conditions."

Brackett's plea paperwork includes paying $9,775 to cover medical bills.

Most of the wounds have healed well, thanks to the plastic surgeon, Turner said. But he's hoping an insurance claim with the church will help him get more plastic surgery for the deepest, most visible scar, near the left corner of his mouth.

Brackett's last-minute plea preceded what would have been a five-day trial. He had no criminal history. Judge Ira Uhrig gave him the maximum sentence allowed for a first-time offender. He'd already served that time waiting for his trial.

Overall, Turner said he's satisfied with the outcome. But for Brackett he has mixed feelings.

"(I'm) angry to be honest," Turner wrote. "Yet all I can say is that I forgive him because I know that the punishment he will receive ... is nowhere close to what God and Karma has in store for him."

Reach Caleb Hutton at 360-715-2276 or caleb.hutton@bellinghamherald.com. Read his Dispatcher Blog at bellinghamherald.com/dispatcher-blog or follow him on Twitter at @bhamcrime.

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