Editors note: A previous version of this article misidentified the deputy prosecutor. The name was corrected on Friday, Oct. 6.
A Lewis County Superior Court judge issued a $50,000 arrest warrant on Tuesday for a man who successfully appealed his December 2021 second-degree extortion conviction and didn’t appear at the hearing to set dates for a new trial.
The man, Dean E. Phillips, 54, of Centralia, was convicted by a jury for allegedly attempting to extort $500,000 from a Centralia police officer in April 2021.
He was sentenced to 70 days in partial confinement under electronic home monitoring in early 2022 but was later arrested for violation of his home monitoring. In May 2022, he was ordered to serve the remaining eight days of his sentence in jail. As of January 2023, he had completed his jail sentence and had filed an appeal to have his conviction overturned.
The state Court of Appeals issued its decision in Phillips’ case on June 21, finding Phillips had the right to a retrial due to "prosecutorial misconduct” during Phillips’ initial trial.
Specifically, the appeals court found the prosecution had a judge exclude Phillip’s medical records from evidence and then argued during its closing argument that Phillips’ claims about his medical issues in custody were unsubstantiated; elicited “improper opinion testimony” from a witness; and made an improper statement about the victim during opening arguments to encourage an emotional response from the jury.
The Court of Appeals returned the case to Lewis County Superior Court in August for re-trial, and the court sent Phillips a summons notice on Aug. 22 for a Sept. 13 hearing to set new trial dates.
Phillips did not appear for that Sept. 13 hearing. Ahead of the hearing, he reportedly sent the court a letter saying there would be problems “if we come to his house to kidnap him,” according to Deputy Prosecutor Sara Beigh. Due to the threat and the circumstances of the case, Judge James Lawler agreed to send Phillips a new summons notice on Sept. 13 instead of issuing a warrant, but said a warrant should be issued if Phillips doesn’t appear for the new hearing.
According to Beigh, Phillips mailed back the new summons notice with a handwritten note on it saying it was “undeliverable mail.”
That second hearing was scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 3.
Phillips was not present, prompting Judge Joely Yeagher to issue the bench warrant.