A Centralia man was found guilty of second-degree assault of a child in Lewis County’s first 12-person jury trial under COVID-19 conditions since October.
Cory M. Caldwell had been accused of picking a 9-year-old boy up off the ground by the neck.
on July 1, 2020. The case against Caldwell was filed in Lewis County Superior Court on Oct. 2, after officers conducted a welfare check on a Centralia family that Child Protective Services (CPS) had concerns about, according to the affidavit of probable cause.
Officers contacted two children: the 9-year-old named in the case and his 5-year-old brother. Officers reported that the 5-year-old had a scab on his back, which he said he got as a result of Caldwell “pushing him into the wall,” and the 9-year-old disclosed that Caldwell had ‘choked him,’ causing him to have difficulty breathing and making him feel like he was turning blue,” and had previously caused bruises from hitting him.
Upon speaking to the victims’ mother, she reportedly admitted to seeing Caldwell grab the 9-year-old by the neck “and pick him up to the point of his feet coming off the ground,” and reportedly said she had seen Caldwell hit both children.
Caldwell spoke to a CPS worker and allegedly denied “choking” either child, but allegedly admitted to hitting them “to teach them a lesson,” though he had previously denied using any physical force against the boys.
Caldwell entered a not guilty plea in Lewis County Superior Court on Oct. 8, and both sides began preparing for the trial.
Jurors were selected at the Southwest Washington Fairgrounds on the morning of March 1 and brought to the Lewis County Law & Justice Center for the trial, overseen by Judge James Lawler, in the early afternoon.
The trial continued into the next day, and after two hours deliberation, the jury found Caldwell guilty of second-degree assault of a child beyond a reasonable doubt. Caldwell is currently being held at the Lewis County Jail on a no-bail hold pending sentencing, which is scheduled for March 9.
Aside from a couple of weeks in October when Lewis County courts held jury trials with COVID-19 health and safety measures in place, all civil and jury trials were on hold in Lewis County from March 2020 through February 2021 due to COVID-19 concerns.
To ensure that trials are compliant with COVID-19 health and safety recommendations, jury selection takes place at the Southwest Washington Fairgrounds and all jurors, court staff and witnesses social distance during the trial itself. The space needed for everyone who needs to be in the courtroom for a full jury trial to effectively social distance means that there is only one courtroom in the Lewis County Law and Justice Center in Chehalis that they can use for 12-person Superior Court jury trials, and two courtrooms that can handle six-person District Court jury trials.
Lewis County will also be using space at R.E. Bennett Elementary School in Chehalis for civil cases, and potentially for District Court and out-of-custody cases as well.