Wasco County District Attorney Eric Nisley wants to send a “loud and clear” message to people that there will be consequences for spitting in the face of a police officer.
“In this day and age, with so many communicable diseases, there is always a huge risk,” he said.
Nisley made those comments after prosecuting Michael David Shinnick, 43, for aggravated harassment of The Dalles Police Officer Josh Jones.
“Officer Jones is a former Marine and Iraqi war veteran and he didn’t deserve to be spit on while he was doing his job — nobody deserves that,” said the district attorney.
Judge Janet Stauffer directed Shinnick, who has a long criminal record, to spend 20 months in prison after a jury convicted him May 16 of the crime.
The 12-member panel deliberated about 20 minutes after hearing the case, according to Nisley.
Shinnick, who has been diagnosed with a mental illness, was represented by David Susens of the gorge firm Morris Smith Starnes and Sullivan.
On March 1, Shinnick, who is homeless, was arrested outside of a food mart on the east end of town where he had been panhandling. Nisley said Jones and Officer Jeremy Dutton were called to the scene after Shinnick accosted an elderly couple who refused to give him money.
When the officers arrived about 8:30 a.m., they determined Shinnick had violated his probation for a drug conviction by consuming alcohol. When Jones tried to take the man into custody, Nisley said Shinnick spit directly into the officer’s face.
“Officer Jones testified that he just wiped the spit off and took Mr. Shinnick to jail,” said the district attorney. “This officer handled himself with incredible professionalism.”
Susen argued that Shinnick’s behavior was due to his mental illness and therefore should not be handled in the criminal justice system. Nisley countered by telling the jury that Shinnick’s previous convictions were of a serious nature, some violent, and he appeared to see himself as above the law.
He said most people with mental illness do not resort to the level of aggressiveness displayed by Shinnick. And, if they do, they too are taken to jail for the protection of the public and law enforcement officials.
During the March 1 ride to the Northern Oregon Regional Correctional Facilities, Nisley said a “spit hood” was placed on Shinnick to prevent further problems.