Two get prison terms on kidnapping, assault charges

One assailant gets reduced sentence

Posted 7/29/21

Jefferson County Superior Court Judge Keith Harper gave “Happy birthday” wishes to 

Robert John Cuevas.

He then gave him four years in prison.

Cuevas was one of four men …

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Two get prison terms on kidnapping, assault charges

One assailant gets reduced sentence

Posted

Jefferson County Superior Court Judge Keith Harper gave “Happy birthday” wishes to 

Robert John Cuevas.

He then gave him four years in prison.

Cuevas was one of four men arrested in an alleged kidnapping and assault of a Port Townsend man last November, and Cuevas was sentenced Friday after admitting his guilt and agreeing to a plea deal with prosecutors.

Another man arrested for the kidnapping and assault, Isaiah William Peoples-Morse, changed his pleading to guilty July 16 and was sentenced to five years in prison.

Cuevas appeared in court for sentencing July 23 — his 20th birthday. He has been in jail on felony counts of first-degree kidnapping and first-degree assault since his arrest in March.

Cuevas, Peoples-Morse, Zachary James Barbee, and Giuseppe D. Glanz were taken into custody earlier this year after authorities alleged the men beat up an acquaintance at a home in the mobile park at 545 Hendricks St. in Port Townsend after the victim returned to the residence following a visit there earlier in the day.

The victim in the alleged kidnapping was found lying in the road on Anderson Lake Road, east of Highway 20, on Nov. 20. The man told police he had been kidnapped, robbed, beaten, drugged and left there by his assailants.

In an earlier hearing on the charges, Harper said those arrested the victim he was lucky to have lived through the attack.

At Friday’s court appearance, Cuevas’ attorney recalled representing him as a juvenile and a failed attempt to get him into drug court.

Cuevas was a slow-moving train wreck, a teenager with a drug addiction, and didn’t get the treatment he needed, said attorney Scott Charlton. 

“And things went south,” Charlton said.

Cuevas also lacked positive role models among his family and friends. His father, Barbee, is one of the two remaining defendants still scheduled to stand trial for the alleged kidnapping and assault.

Charlton called Cuevas “a nice, responsible young man” who was willing to stand up and take accountability for his actions.

Still, his attorney wondered what could have been if he had been allowed into drug court.

So, too, did Deputy Prosecutor Anna Phillips.

Phillips recalled Cuevas’ troubled history as a teenager in juvenile court, which included accusations of using his grandmother’s credit card without her permission to buy things on Amazon. 

“He has always been first in the door to plead guilty and take whatever is coming,” she said. 

Cuevas is a “super smart kid,” she added, but was a full, active participant in what Phillips called “a completely over-the-top situation.”

“There’s no getting away from how extreme the conduct was,” she said.

Phillips recalled a post-arrest interview with one of the four men, who admitted their actions against a friend who they thought had stolen something was beyond the pale, and said, “’Don’t you think it was a little much?’”

“That was like the understatement of the year,” Phillips said.

VICTIM TRIED TO STAY SILENT

The victim, a man prosecutors said was marginalized due to his own drug addictions, initially refused to talk about being kidnapped, assaulted, and nearly left for dead by the side of a rural county road.

The victim “told the deputies that he wasn’t going to say anything because he would be killed,” according to an incident report from the Port Townsend Police Department.

He later broke his silence after jailed on a shoplifting charge.

The man told authorities he had been visiting a mobile home in the Sea Breeze trailer park the morning of Tuesday, Nov. 10, but when he returned about midday he was confronted and assaulted by Glanz, Barbee, Cuevas, and Peoples-Morse.

The victim said he was accused of stealing from the group when he came back, and they attacked him and beat him for hours.

At one point, the victim made it to the front door and tried to escape, but was stopped and beaten again. His assailants took turns punching him in the face and ribs, and added he was also hit with clubs.

The man also thought he’d be killed, because at one point, three of the men — Glanz, Barbee, and Peoples-Morse — talked about whether or not to kill him.

The victim also said the attackers threatened him with an assault rifle, and later shot him with a BB gun/airsoft pistol.

The man said he was shot 15 to 20 times, and said Barbee pointed the gun close to his face and shot him in the right eye with the BB gun as Glanz and Peoples-Morse held him down.

He started screaming, hoping neighbors in the mobile home park would hear his cries for help. No one apparently did.

The victim also said his attackers cut off his long hair, which was waist length, and shoved the hair into his mouth to shut him up. He said he was also burned with cigarettes, stripped of his clothes and forced to put on different clothes, and put in the bed of a truck where he was driven around for a while before he was eventually dumped off about 8 miles away from the home where he was assaulted.

He told authorities he was “told to keep his mouth shut, or else,” according to court documents.

REDUCED SENTENCE

The plea deal called for a maximum sentence of 72 months.

Noah Harrison, an attorney also representing Cuevas, said the young man recognized he was going to prison. 

“He has good, solid plans when he is released,” Harrison said, adding that that future does not include returning to Jefferson County.

“Which is one of the smartest decisions he can make,” he added.

Cuevas said he understood that by staying in the mobile home as the crimes occurred made him just as guilty as everyone else there. He said he was sorry, but he did not expect forgiveness from the victim.

“I was there and I didn’t stop it,” he said.

Despite all the assistance he received as a youth from the court’s juvenile services, he was left to eventually return to a toxic home life with a brother and father with drug addiction issues. 

“I couldn’t get away from my dad; he was the only parent I’ve ever known,” Cuevas said. “My life started to snowball because of my addiction.”

“I never thought my life would end up here,” Cuevas said.

He told the judge his birthday marked his 145th day of being sober.

“I am going to use this entire experience as motivation to change my life. This will be the first day of the rest of my life,” he said.

Harper recalled the first time Cuevas had appeared in his court.

“I remember you being charged with your first adult felony. And I’ll be quite frank; I believe a big mistake was made by not allowing you into drug court,” the judge said. “Personally, I think that was a huge mistake.”

Harper recalled someone he knew in high school, who soon after was convicted and spent a few years in prison in Walla Walla.

It was back in the 1960s, Harper said, and the man served his time and never got into trouble again.

Once released, he eventually got a good job with the state of Washington, retiring after more than 30 years in a community where Harper doubted that anyone knew he was in prison at the age of 19.

He told Cuevas that he is young and has an opportunity to change his life for the positive.

“So that some day this will be a blip on your background and your history,” Harper said.

Harper said he would cut the sentence for Cuevas that had been set in the plea agreement.

“I just can’t put my head around 72 months. That’s six years,” Harper said.

Cuevas was sentenced to four years and 18 months on the first-degree kidnapping charge, as well as 20 months on the assault charge and 17 months for possession of a stolen firearm. The sentences will run concurrently.

“I hope that you are able to get the support and structure you need, one way or the other,” Harper said.

Phillips approached the table where Cuevas sat with a court document for him to sign.

“I’m rooting for you,” she told him.

“Good luck,” added Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecutor Chris R. Ashcraft.

Harper again wished Cuevas success.

“In any event, if everything is going well and so on, don’t hesitate to get in touch with me,” Harper said. “I would really, really like to hear that you are doing well.”

“You’re probably going to remember your 20th birthday for the rest of your life,” Harper added.

He could now start counting the days of doing right. 

“So good luck. I hope things work out,” Harper said.

Phillips said the case was difficult for everyone involved.

“I do believe today’s sentence was just and appropriate,” she told the judge.

LITTLE REMORSE

During his earlier sentencing hearing, a victim of one of Peoples-Morse’s earlier crimes described how her life had changed after he burglarized her home and repeatedly confronted her at her Port Townsend apartment.

Peoples-Morse was arrested Jan. 22 after he allegedly broke into a 27-year-old Port Townsend woman’s apartment on Hancock Street and stole a Hewlett-Packard computer laptop, an Amazon tablet, two purses, sunglasses, and a pair of black ladies underwear, according to court documents. 

Peoples-Morse was on bail on burglary charges when he was arrested on the kidnapping and assault charge.

The burglary victim told police earlier this year she had come home to find her laptop missing and clothes had been strewn around the apartment.

She immediately identified Peoples-Morse as a possible suspect, and said that she “was suspicious of him based on his past behavior and possibly his desire to retaliate against her for reporting him to the police a number of other times in the recent past.”

The burglary victim told Harper she was taking her two young sons to school when 

Peoples-Morse broke into her home.

In addition to her things, he also stole her 10-year-old son’s wallet.

“He was very heartbroken to have that taken from him,” she said.

The burglary left her feeling violated, and filthy.

“I didn’t want to touch any of my stuff afterward,” she told the judge.

The break-in changed her life and the way she lives, she added, living with the curtains closed and looking over her shoulder.

“Now I feel like I have to bunker down in my own home. I feel like I have to hide in my own home,” she said.

After her testimony, the judge looked at Peoples-Morse, and asked, “Anything you want to say or add?”

“No,” Peoples-Morse said.

Harper asked how he felt about the victim’s statement. 

“Do you care?” the judge asked.

“Um. If everything was honest, yeah,” came the response.

“Pardon me?” Harper asked.

“Half of that was not honest,” Peoples-Morse said.

“Never mind,” the judge said.

Harper noted he would follow the plea deal’s arrangement of 60 months in prison on the kidnapping charge, 17 months on the assault charge and 14 months for the burglary charge. The sentences will run concurrently.

He also signed a no-contact order to prevent Peoples-Morse from contacting the victim for 10 years.

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