Clark County judge shouts down defendant - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Clark County judge shouts down defendant

CLARK COUNTY, Wash. - Judge John Wulle of Clark County has heard a lot during his 12 years on the bench. On Monday, it was all just too much.

"It's the worst I've ever had happen in a courtroom with someone being mouthy," Judge Wulle said, two days after an explosive series of exchanges were caught on courtroom cameras.

Judge Wulle was sentencing Matthew R. Hastings in Clark County Superior Court when the two exchanged heated words.

Hastings had been convicted on four counts of attempted murder and two counts of second-degree assault for a taking a hostage and shooting at police during a standoff in Vancouver in July, 2007.

At one point, the judge told Hastings to "shut your damn mouth".

After a brief, heated exchange, the judge excused himself and summoned both attorneys into his chambers.

When he returned, the judge apologized for using the word "damn" to anyone who was offended.

"Mr. Hastings pushed my buttons," Wulle said. "I do apologize if I offended anyone in this courtroom."

On Wednesday, Judge Wulle talked about the exchange with KGW reporter Pat Dooris.

"It's, maybe, a generational thing," said Wulle. "But I grew up in a world where if someone has a badge or someone is the authority of the law...we were taught to say yes, sir."

Last month a jury convicted him of shooting at a special weapons and tactics team during a standoff in Vancouver on July 18, 2007.

An officer was wounded but has returned to duty.

Hastings initially appeared calm and gave one-word answers in court, but became agitated and aggressive after the judge asked him if he had graduated from high school.

At one point, the judge warned Hastings he'd be gagged if he continued his outburst.

"OK, have me gagged then," Hastings bellowed.

Wulle then said he was accepting the state's sentencing recommendation.

"Good for you!" Hastings shouted. "I'll take another."

After the judge issued his apology, the two had another pointed exchange that ended with the judge saying: "The only thing I can say to you, on behalf of the citizens of this community, is bye bye."

"I was trying to make the point that the citizens are done," Wulle explained in his interview with KGW. "The citizens have spoken through the jury, the community has spoken, the police have spoken, and there's only one thing to say to you and that is goodbye."

Judge Wulle imposed the full 120-year sentence on Hastings.

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