Matthew Hibbard found guilty in Ben Ensign assault case
KENNEWICK, Wash. - Sheila Barichello, Ben Ensign's mother said, "The whole thing is so tragic all the way around, tragic."
The surveillance video she saw of her son may be the most tragic, watching him tossed to the sidewalk like a ragdoll. It was compelling evidence presented by the state. It was part of what convinced a jury Matthew Hibbard was guilty of assault.
He is guilty of dropping Ben Ensign on his head and being negligent in doing his job, causing Ensign severe brain damage.
During closing arguments, the prosecutor used still shots of that video. He told the jury Ensign was in a choke hold and posed no threat to the bouncer, giving Hibbard no reason to thrust him on his head.
Prosecutor Andy Miller told the jury, "The defendant, according to numerous witnesses testified, what was I supposed to do, hold him all night? The best evidence on this is the defendant's own words at the time."
The defense used the same photos with a different point of view. John Jensen, defense attorney recalled Ensign's behavior before the drop. He was kicking over chairs, taking stranger's drinks causing him to get thrown out.
Jensen told the jury,"Mr. Ensign is the one who put the events in motion that causes Mr. Hibbard to try and make a choice between a whole lot of bad options."
Hibbard didn't move a muscle as the verdict was read convicting him of felony assault in the third degree and of aggravating circumstances. He's free until sentencing.
Hibbard bolted for the parking lot.
KEPR caught up with him and asked, "Matt, no comment? No? Ok, just want to make sure to give him the opportunity."
Ensign's mother was in court every day, representing her family.
She said, "In my heart and my soul I just believed the evidence was there, the video proved everything and so we honestly felt that a guilty verdict would come back. It's definitely a start to healing."
Still, far from an end to a tragic story.
Hibbard faces up to five years behind bars when he's sentenced in a few weeks.
Many of you have asked how Ben Ensign is doing. His mother told us yesterday the outlook is not good.
She says Ben has had severe seizures and is likely to be in an assisted living facility for life.