Man who fired gun at Everett Mall pleads guilty

EVERETT — For Charles F. Sprague III, the future may best be captured as a story problem:

If an 11-time felon pleads guilty to five more crimes, including multiple counts of assault for firing a handgun during an afternoon visit to the Everett Mall, and if those crimes occurred while he was on parole awaiting sentence on other offenses, how long will it be before the convict next sees freedom?

Sprague should get an answer when he’s sentenced later this fall.

The Everett man, 26, pleaded guilty Friday to two counts of second-degree assault, two counts of attempted second-degree assault and with being a felon in possession of a firearm.

Whatever time Sprague gets will be in addition to a two-year sentence he received Sept. 17 for possession of stolen property. In that case, he was trying to use credit cards stolen during an April burglary.

Sprague was out on bail for that offense and only a few months home from his last prison stretch when he decided to hit the mall on July 2. Closed-circuit TV at Macy’s caught him slipping a black Nike brand T-shirt into a shopping bag. He and a girlfriend then tried to leave without paying.

The defendant fought a loss prevention officer and mall security when confronted. During the melee, Sprague bit one of the officers. He also pulled a .40-caliber handgun.

Sprague was disarmed with the help of two off-duty police officers who were among the shoppers. Before that happened, though, the weapon discharged and a bullet struck a nearby door. When the handgun was examined, police discovered the weapon had jammed, according to court papers.

The gunfire sent people fleeing toward the exits while police raced to the scene. They didn’t immediately know it was a shoplifting case gone wrong. They feared that somebody may have decided to target shoppers.

With a criminal history that began in his teens, Sprague now faces up to 10 years each for the assaults, along with years of enhanced punishment because he used a firearm and was on parole at the time of his offenses.

Under the plea agreement approved Friday, prosecutors will recommend a total of more than 17 years for Sprague’s mall mayhem. That sentence, which falls within state guidelines, must be consecutive to the more than two years Sprague recently received for the April credit card case.

Combined, the sentences should keep Sprague off the street until he’s in his late 30s or early 40s, deputy prosecutor Ed Stemler said after the Snohomish County Superior Court hearing.

The defendant appeared practiced when he entered his guilty pleas, offering little beyond the answers needed to complete the exercise. Judge Anita Farris warned him that regardless of the plea agreement, a judge still could find grounds to send him to prison even longer. One factor that can be considered is unusual criminal history, she said.

Sprague already had amassed 11 felonies prior to his trip to the mall. Although the new convictions constitute a “strike” under the state’s persistent offender law, he isn’t looking at a potential life sentence because he hasn’t been convicted of other violent felonies.

Meanwhile, Stephanie Boyle, his co-defendant in the mall case, also is facing assault charges. She is awaiting an October trial. She remains in jail, her bail set at $100,000.

Scott North: 425-339-3431, north@heraldnet.com.

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