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Tuesday, May 22, 2001 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Victor David convicted in abuse of wife

Seattle Times staff reporter

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A Snohomish County jury found Victor David guilty of second-degree assault yesterday, seven months after a first jury failed to reach a verdict and more than four years after his wife, Linda David, was rescued from the sailboat where he beat her and kept her in isolation for years.

David, 61, remained seated as the verdict was read, staring silently ahead and betraying no emotion. He has been free on $20,000 bail for several months but was taken back into custody yesterday, with his bail raised to $150,000. David, a Canadian citizen, eventually could face deportation, court officials said.

Snohomish County Prosecutor Jim Krider said his office would seek an exceptional sentence for David but had not yet decided on a length. The standard range for the charge is six to 12 months; the maximum is 10 years.

David's lawyer, Bryan Hershman, said he expected his client would get an exceptional sentence. Hershman, who also represented David during his first trial, said he would not handle an appeal of the case.

"Among other things, there's a burnout factor," he said. "This is one of the most draining cases I've ever worked on."

Jurors had the option of finding David guilty of third-degree assault, a less-serious felony, if they thought he was criminally negligent in causing his wife bodily harm. That charge carries a maximum penalty of five years - a choice the jury was not given during the first trial. For second-degree assault, jurors had to believe David intended to harm her.

Prosecutors had said that proving first-degree assault would have required them to prove that David not only intended to assault his wife, but that he intended to inflict the injuries he did.

Linda David was emaciated, incoherent and brain-damaged to the point of being virtually immobilized in January 1997, when she was carried off the sailboat where she was kept with seven dogs and a cat. Her ears were cauliflowered, her nose was bulbous and her arms and legs were deformed from years of untreated fractures. Doctors said she was the most physically traumatized person they had ever encountered.

Her husband was being paid by the state to care for her, claiming she had multiple sclerosis. State records referred to the diagnosis of MS, but medical examinations later raised another possibility: brain damage from physical abuse.

Last year, the state agreed to a nearly $9 million settlement for Linda David to avoid a civil trial.

The criminal case presented considerable challenges, both because of its circumstantial nature and, Krider said, because the state Attorney General's Office had done a poor investigation before turning the case over to the county in August 1998, after it had been inactive for more than a year and a half.

County prosecutors faced statute-of-limitation requirements when they charged David the following year.

The jury could only consider assaults that occurred between September 1993 and January 1997, even though doctors thought she had been beaten for years, even decades.

Hershman tried unsuccessfully to have a jury called from another part of the state because of the extraordinary amount of publicity the case had received.

In both trials, he argued that David was innocent. He said Linda David suffered from a neurological disorder and caused her own injuries by falling repeatedly.

Some jurors in the first trial believed him; others thought she had been abused, but didn't think the state proved it beyond a reasonable doubt. They deliberated for three days, and were split 7-5 in favor of acquittal when the judge declared a mistrial. They did convict him of being an alien in possession of a firearm.

The seven-man, five-woman jury in this trial took just over a day to reach a verdict.

"We weren't absolutely all together on Friday," the first day of deliberations, said Bill Quinlan, a 39-year-old juror from Everett. But after having the weekend to mull it over, he said, many jurors felt more resolved.

He said Linda David could well have some sort of neurological disorder. Nevertheless, he said, "there was no way all those injuries could have happened from falling on a sailboat."

But Quinlan said the "overwhelming circumstantial evidence" - including photographs of Linda David's face before and after she was taken from the boat - convinced him the stiffer penalty was appropriate.

Kathleen Webber and Mark Roe, the deputy prosecutors trying the case, emphasized this point - how Linda David looked and acted before she was on the boat, and how she was following her rescue - during this trial.

Even though people didn't see or hear Victor David beat his wife, they argued, one could clearly deduce it happened. Doctors said her injuries came from multiple beatings, and Victor David was the only person on the boat with her, prosecutors said.

Hershman called this an "excellent tactic," and pointed to it as one of the factors that could have made a difference between this trial and the last one. The fact that Linda David, who provided conflicting testimony during the last trial, didn't take the stand this time also could have made a difference, he said.

Prosecutors presented some new evidence this trial as well - bank receipts indicating Victor David had more than enough money to care for his wife. The receipts also suggested he left his wife alone on the boat for long stretches, prosecutors said, because they were drawn from banks in other parts of the region.

David already has served about a year and a half in jail, attorneys said.

Asked for comment as he was being led from the courtroom, David said there was "a credibility factor" in the case. He did not elaborate.

Janet Burkitt can be reached at 206-515-5689 or jburkitt@seattletimes.com.

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