EVERETT — A panhandler is facing a possible life sentence for reportedly pulling a knife on a man outside a south Everett business. The victim was holding his young son at the time of the confrontation.
Prosecutors have charged the panhandler, Albert Thelen, with attempted first-degree robbery. If convicted, this will be Thelen’s third-strike under the state’s persistent offender law, Snohomish County deputy prosecutor Toni Montgomery wrote in court papers.
He would face a mandatory life sentence.
Thelen’s previous strike convictions, second-degree assault and first-degree child molestation, date back more than two decades. He was last convicted of a felony in 2009 and spent about three years in prison for a burglary.
Thelen was in the Snohomish County Jail less than two weeks before the incident in south Everett. He’d been booked for investigation of driving under the influence, a misdemeanor. Nurses at the jail, however, sent a letter to the Everett District Court judges, urging his release. They wrote that it was in Thelen’s best interest to be released so he could receive medical treatment beyond what could be provided in the jail.
“This gentleman has some pretty complex physical medical conditions that are complicated by drug use. Those present a challenge to us,” Snohomish County sheriff’s spokeswoman Shari Ireton said.
“It’s a tough decision,” she added.
The sheriff’s office oversees the county jail in Everett.
Thelen was released. Everett police arrested him 10 days later.
A man told officers he was parked outside a sushi restaurant, removing his two young children from his car when Thelen approached. Thelen asked the man for money. The dad told Thelen he didn’t have any spare change. That’s when Thelen reportedly pulled a knife from his pocket.
The defendant asked the man if he wanted trouble, according to court documents.
The man pushed one of his children back into the car and held the other in his arms, backing away and yelling for Thelen to leave them alone.
Thelen reportedly threatened to kill the man. The dad continued to yell at him.
Thelen retreated but not before he stabbed the right taillight of the the man’s vehicle, Montgomery wrote.
Officers stopped Thelen nearby. He told police he had been panhandling, saying he picked the dad because he was dressed nice. He also allegedly told officers that he pulled a knife because the man had a child in his arms and he figured the guy wouldn’t fight back, according to court records.
“The defendant stated he ‘just wanted some money,’ ” Montgomery wrote.
Thelen told police he is an active heroin user. Officers found needles and other drug paraphernalia in his pockets. They also reportedly found a knife and collapsible baton on him.
Thelen pleaded not guilty to the charge last week. Bail was set at $100,000.
Since his return to the county lockup Thelen has spent a significant amount of time outside the jail, receiving medical treatment from specialists, Ireton said.
“He needs care we can’t provide,” she said. “His health is important. It’s hard for staff there, who got into the profession because they wanted to care for people.”