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Saturday, December 1, 2001 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Mardi Gras assailant gets 3-year sentence

Seattle Times staff reporter

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The young man photographed and videotaped wearing brass knuckles and beating people at Seattle's Mardi Gras event in February was sentenced in King County Superior Court yesterday to three years in prison.

Aaron Slaughter, who earlier pleaded guilty to rioting and three assault charges, received a sentence in the high end of the standard sentencing range for the attack on four people during the riots that occurred Feb. 27 in Pioneer Square.

The prosecution and defense agreed upon the sentence because Slaughter wants to take responsibility for his crimes, his attorney Ronald Abernethy said.

"Mr. Slaughter is not typically someone who would engage in these activities. ... He becomes more depressed each time he sees the tape (of the riots)," Abernethy said.

Judge Douglas McBroom, who presided over yesterday's sentencing, said he had received a letter from Seattle Central Community College where Slaughter was a student and from others supporting Slaughter.

"There are people who care about you and respect you," McBroom told Slaughter. "You appear to be a person with great potential to be a good citizen. I certainly hope you realize that potential. I think you can."

Two of Slaughter's victims, Jesse Wilson and Jessica Arnold, told McBroom that Slaughter crossed the street and picked them out at random to beat.

"Do you have any explanation for your actions?" McBroom asked Slaughter, who stood tall and solemn before the bench.

"No, sir," he quietly replied.

In the gallery, his mother and brother also were solemn. Slaughter turned to them and apologized for hurting them. He also apologized to the victims.

"I take full responsibility for my actions," he said.

Slaughter, 20, of Shoreline, was one of the most visible aggressors during the riots that police and prosecutors said were more related to drunken rampages than racism, which some victims have said was the motive.

Slaughter was photographed running through the crowds and striking people with brass knuckles. He was arrested, charged and released on $15,000 bail.

In July, he was arrested in Grant County after participating in a brawl after a concert. He pleaded guilty to rendering criminal assistance. His nine-month sentence for that crime will run concurrently with his three-year sentence.

When Slaughter made his first court appearance in connection with the Mardi Gras assaults, his brother described him as a "good kid" who had acted under the influence of alcohol. And yesterday, Abernethy said Slaughter had consumed two fifths of alcohol the night of the riots.

"If he could take back any of that evening he would," Abernethy said.

Wilson and wife, Allie, say they believe Slaughter and a group of other young African-American men who were with him sought out Jesse Wilson to attack because he is white.

Wilson, a 25-year-old Boeing employee and father of three, said yesterday that his blond hair and blue eyes made him stand out.

Walking stiffly to the bench, to make his statement, Wilson said he was lucky to have made it out alive.

"I went down to Mardi Gras to have a good time with friends. ... An angry group of guys jumped on me. Aaron provoked the entire attack on me," he said.

Jessica Arnold, 19, also spoke of how Slaughter and others crossed the street and selected her to beat.

Slaughter, who is 6-foot-3 and weighs 260 pounds, was much larger than the diminutive Arnold, who remembers being hit repeatedly and then waking up in a hospital.

Arnold suffered severe injuries to her jaw that are permanent, she said.

"I won't want to see someone my age go to jail," she said. "But I hope he gets what he deserves. ... He obviously felt no remorse."

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