Birch Point resident accused of assaulting Whatcom County Assessor: “There’ll be ramifications”

Published on Wed, Jun 20, 2012 by Jeremy Schwartz

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An affidavit issued by the county prosecutor in the case of a Whatcom County man accused of assaulting the county assessor has outlined the reasons for the alleged assailant’s arrest.

Lincoln Rutter, 55, has been charged with intimidating a public servant and fourth-degree assault after he allegedly grabbed assessor Keith Willnauer by his tie and pulled him across the front counter on June 1. Rutter owns a home in the Birch Point area, just north of Birch Bay.

Court documents filed on June 7 reveal more specifics on what Rutter was looking for when he came to the assessor’s office.
In the affidavit of probable cause, chief Whatcom County criminal deputy prosecuting attorney Mac Setter wrote that Rutter disagreed with Willnauer’s decision to allow some land near Rutter’s property to remain in tax exempt status.

Rutter demanded proof that certain portions of the property Rutter was investigating had been changed from a tax exempt to a non-exempt status. WIllnauer said he had already given this proof to Rutter, but Rutter denied this.

“The defendant [Rutter] at this point became enraged and reached across the counter grabbing Willnauer’s necktie,” Setter wrote. “The defendant continued to yell threats at Willnauer which was [sic] variously reported by witnesses as ‘do you think you can do this to me, I’ll show you;’ ‘there’ll be ramifications, you can’t do this to me;’ ‘if you don’t give it to me, there will be ramifications.’”

Setter wrote that the 6-foot-4-inch, 245-pound Rutter used both hands to grab Willnauer’s necktie and tightened it to the point of it obstructing Willnauer’s breathing. After about 10 seconds, Rutter released Willnauer, leaving Willnauer’s shirt torn in the collar area.

Whatcom County sheriff’s deputies arrived at the assessor’s office a few minutes after 11 a.m. and arrested Rutter at the scene. Rutter was booked into Whatcom County Jail and later released on bond.

A fit-for-trial hearing has been set for August 15, while the jury trial has been set for August 27. Bellingham attorney Jeffrey Lustick is representing Rutter and has asked the prosecuting attorney to release documents, recordings, reports, statements and witness lists to the defense before the jury trial gets underway.