Washington state judge rejects repaying acquitted man's fees

YAKIMA, Wash. (AP) — A man acquitted of second-degree murder in January will not be reimbursed for his legal fees, a judge ruled.

Yakima County Superior Court Judge Kevin Naught ruled Cameron Jay Helland, 19, is not entitled to reimbursement of attorney's fees and other expenses because he did not pay for them himself and he was reportedly selling drugs at the time of the shooting, the Yakima Herald-Republic reported Monday.

Helland was charged with fatally shooting 16-year-old Davontae Mesa during an alleged drug deal at Yakima's West Valley Community Park in November 2018, authorities said.

Jurors found that Helland was acting in self-defense.

Under law, acquitted defendants legal bills must be paid by the state, but jurors found Helland was most likely engaged in criminal activity by selling marijuana, officials said.

Helland earlier pleaded guilty to misdemeanor underage possession of a firearm in connection with the case, and Naught imposed a 90-day suspended jail sentence after the acquittal.

The drug sale was not inseparable from the shooting, and Mesa asked Helland to sell him drugs, defense attorney Ulvar Klein said. The state has previously reimbursed prisoners who were later found innocent $50,000 a year for their time in custody, he argued.

That is only true for someone who was wrongly convicted, and Helland was never convicted of the murder charge, prosecutors said.

“Mr. Helland is seeking to punish the state for charging him with a crime to which he was ultimately found to be not guilty, and for holding him in custody until his acquittal,” Naught said. (‎2/‎18/‎2020 10:22 AM) Mumphrey, Cheyanne:

As for attorney’s and counseling fees, Naught said it was Helland’s family, and not him, that took on those expenses, and thus was not owed money by the state. He said Helland had testified in court that he previously received treatment for anxiety, showing that incarceration did not create mental-health problems for which he was counseled.