By Caleb Hutton
Prosecutors have filed charges following an assault on Whatcom County Assessor Keith Willnauer.
(Here’s the article I wrote last week about the assault.)
Willnauer was attacked on the morning of June 1 at his office in the county courthouse. Lincoln Lewis Rutter, 55, a Semiahmoo resident, had demanded information about the status of his neighbors’ property taxes.
When Willnauer said it might take time to gather those documents, Rutter grabbed the assessor by the necktie with both hands, slammed his face on the counter and shook him from side to side, according to the charges.
From the document:
On this occasion (Rutter) was confronting Willnauer over his decision, as the Assessor, to allow some land to remain in a tax exempt status. (Rutter) disagreed with this and said that Willnauer was wrong. Willnauer explained that certain portions of the parceled land involved had been changed from a tax exempt to a non-exempt status. The defendant demanded proof of that immediately. Willnauer said this would take some time. The defendant at this point became enraged and reached across the counter grabbing Willnauer’s necktie as described above. The defendant continued to yell threats at Willnauer which was variously reported by witnesses as “do you think you can do this to me, I’ll show you”; “there’ll be ramifications, you can’t do this to me”; “if you don’t give it to me, there will be ramifications.”
Rutter pulled Willnauer’s necktie hard enough tear his shirt collar and pull the assessor off of his feet, according to the charges. Willnauer was choked, and also suffered a bruise to his chin.
Rutter is 6-foot-4 and 245 pounds. As Willnauer later told the Herald, “Mr. Rutter is a large individual. And I’m not.”
Prosecutors alleged Rutter had, in the past, “used his height and weight to lean into and bully employees in the office,” and had been known to slam his hands on counter tops. Because of those exchanges, Willnauer chose to personally “handle” Rutter when he came into the office, the charges say.
Many people witnessed the assault, including Willnauer’s fellow employees. Afterward, Rutter was told to sit in a chair outside the office and to wait until sheriff’s deputies to arrive. He obeyed that request.
Charges were filed Friday, June 8.
Rutter is accused of fourth-degree assault and intimidating a public servant, a Class B felony. He spent two days in jail before posting $10,000 bond.