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Saturday, August 3, 2002 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Garrett gets maximum term, vows 'I'll be back'

Seattle Times staff reporter

The trial of James Cordell Garrett ended as it began: with the defendant railing against the legal system, racism, prosecutors and 300 years of "European, settler, colonial terrorism."

But yesterday in court, someone else had the last word.

King County Superior Court Judge Douglas McBroom sentenced Garrett, 56, also known as Omari Tahir-Garrett, to 21 months in prison for striking former Mayor Paul Schell with a bullhorn during a community festival last year.

After a weeklong trial, jurors took less than five hours to find Garrett guilty of second-degree assault.

Jurors also determined that a bullhorn could be a deadly weapon, which added a year to the sentence.

Twenty-one months was the longest sentence McBroom could impose within guidelines established by the Legislature.

During yesterday's sentencing hearing, King County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Dan Soukup asked the judge to not show Garrett leniency.

"It's an assault on Paul Schell, but it's also an assault on us all. It makes people feel unsafe and public officials feel unsafe in public forums," he said. "It's a slap in the face of the community itself."

Garrett's attorney Eric Weston unsuccessfully argued that his client suffers from "post-traumatic-stress disorder brought on by racial disparities in our society," and needed to be evaluated by a psychiatrist. The judge refused and then allowed Garrett — whose first trial ended in a hung jury — the opportunity to argue for a reduced sentence.

"I appreciate the opportunity to speak before the lynching," he told the court.

Garrett then launched into a diatribe about racism and oppression, rebuffing McBroom's attempts to get him to talk about the case.

"I love to come to court," said Garrett. "This is the only time European males will listen to me."

Garrett continued: "I was sentenced when I was born a black baby. I'm not afraid of (being found) guilty, (serving) life, or 200 years for standing up and being a strong African-American male and an icon for our youth. Give me liberty or give me death! The truth hurts European-settler-terrorists!"

By this time, McBroom had had enough.

"Are you cutting me off?" asked Garrett. "I can't speak for 10 minutes?"

"You have already spoken for 10 minutes," said McBroom.

"Can I speak for half an hour?" asked Garrett.

"No," said McBroom, who then began to explain his thoughts about the case.

"Don't lecture me!" interrupted Garrett. "You're not my daddy!"

"Your statements here and after trial to the media were obnoxious," McBroom continued.

"So sentence me!" Garrett shot back.

"Mr. Garrett, here's the sentence," said McBroom, clearly losing patience.

He then announced that he was sentencing Garrett to the maximum amount of time.

Garrett is responsible for paying $2,793.03 in court costs. After his release from prison, he will be supervised by the Department of Corrections for 18 to 36 months. He also is to have no contact with Schell. A hearing to determine whether Garrett will pay restitution to Schell is to be scheduled.

Garrett's first trial, in which he represented himself, ended in a mistrial May 9 after jurors could not reach a verdict, splitting 10-2 in favor of conviction.

Before Garrett was led away in handcuffs yesterday, he told the judge that he was filing an appeal.

"I'll be back, judge," he said over his shoulder as he was led out of the packed courtroom.

Alex Fryer: 206-464-8124 or afryer@seattletimes.com.

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