Bellingham real estate developer fined in courthouse assault

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDOctober 25, 2013 

Bellingham real estate developer Derek Stebner has been fined $1,000 after he agreed to plead guilty to misdemeanor assault on a bankruptcy official in the men's room of the U.S. Courthouse in Seattle.

According to court documents, the incident took place April 8, 2013, during a recess in a hearing related to the Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization case of Stebner's company, Stebner Real Estate Inc. U.S. Marshal Arnold Knight reported that he interviewed the victim, bankruptcy receiver Marc Stern, shortly after the incident. According to Knight's report, Stern said he was in a restroom stall when Stebner kicked in the door and yelled an obscenity and a threat. Stern also told Knight that the stall door flew open and struck him.

"I examined the door to the stall ... I saw that it was scraped and the lock was dislodged and loose, consistent with being kicked or forced open," Knight reported.

Stebner was arrested and jailed for four days after the incident. Through his attorney, Stebner denied Stern's version of what happened, and denied threatening Stern.

But Stebner entered a plea of guilty in July 2013 and, in a deal with the federal prosecutor, agreed to a year's probation, a fine of $1,000 and $72.02 in restitution for damage to the stall door. The government agreed to drop a second charge: damage to the property of the United States.

"I realize that my actions were completely inappropriate and I accept full responsibility for them," Stebner wrote in a letter to U.S. Magistrate Judge Brian Tsuchida.

Judge Tsuchida approved the plea deal on Wednesday, Oct. 23.

Stebner Real Estate's bankruptcy proceeding was dismissed in June 2013 after Stebner worked things out with his creditors.

The company owns an undeveloped 22.6-acre tract on Lincoln Street next to the Fred Meyer on Lakeway Drive, as well as commercial real estate in downtown Bellingham.

Reach John Stark at 360-715-2274 or john.stark@bellinghamherald.com. Read his Politics Blog at bellinghamherald.com/politics-blog or follow him on Twitter at @bhamheraldpolitics.

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