UPDATE: Ronald Clarke Mattson, 63, the attorney charged with second-degree malicious mischief for keying several cars, was sentenced in court Thursday.
The judge sentenced Mattson to 12 months and 240 hours of community service. The judge suspended the jail sentence.
Mattson apologized in court and wept during the proceeding.
ORIGINAL STORY: ASeattle attorney has been charged, after admitting to scratching several cars with a key and leaving threatening notes on them. A sting set up by building security officers helped lead to the charge.
King County prosecutors charged Ronald Clarke Mattson, 63, with second-degree malicious mischief, a felony punishable by up to 60 days in jail, the vandalizing incidents at Columbia Center in downtown Seattle.
Prosecutors say Mattson keyed a woman’s car on March 9th and left a note on the windshield that said: “Take some parking lessons you idiot!”
On March 11th, a security officer noticed that someone had keyed the entire side of a Volvo station wagon. And there was also a note left on the windshield, this one said, “Where did you learn how to park Dweeb!”`
Both cars had been parked just over the line of their designated parking spots, and the notes left on both were written on Washington Athletic Club stationary.
One of the cars belongs to Susan Wassell, an attorney herself, who works in the same building.
"Obviously [it was] very upsetting," Wassell said. "It was a brand-new vehicle and had signifcant damage to the right side of the vehicle. It definitely had an impact on me personally, professionally, psychologically."
After the second incident, Columbia Center security officers set up their own sting operation to try to catch the vandal in action. On March 15th, security project manager Pat Farrell parked a black Pontiac Bonneville so that it was straddling the lines of two parking spots. He then took up a position in a parked car directly in view of the bait car. A security surveillance camera also was set up to monitor the bait car.
That morning, Farrell said a silver Porsche — a vehicle registered to Mattson — drove past the bait car, stopped and backed up past the bait car, before driving down to a different level. Minutes later, Farrell saw an older white man, later identified as Mattson, walk from the rear of the driver’s side down the length of the car, around the front, and down the passenger side to the rear of the car. When he got to the rear of the passenger side, Farrell observed Mattson's hand rising away from his body consistent with finishing a key scratch, according to the police report.
Mattson then walked back to the elevator doors, while Farrell, who had radioed a colleague to check on the Bonneville, joined Mattson in the elevator, which went up to the office tower. After Farrell’s colleague told him the car had been extensively scratched, Farrell confronted Mattson in his office and called the Seattle Police Department.
Farrell provided security film footage to a police detective from the sting operation and from the earlier car keying incidents. In the earlier incidents, Mattson’s car was seen entering the parking garage and parking. Minutes later, Mattson appeared on the level of the keyed cars.
Mattson called Farrell on March 17th for a meeting. When they met, Farrell told Mattson there had been multiple incidents of threatening notes and at least two incidents of key scratching. Mattson denied scratching any cars, but did admit to leaving at least one note on an improperly parked car, according to court documents, specifically stating that he used the word “dweeb.”
Farrell asked Mattson if he used Washington Athletic Club Stationary; Mattson confirmed that he could have. Mattson also denied being near the Bonneville earlier that week. When Farrell told Mattson that camera footage showed him near the Bonneville the day it was keyed, Mattson did not respond. The meeting ended soon after.
Seattle police contacted Mattson at his office where they confronted him with their investigation, where court documents say he showed remorse. Mattson was taken to police headquarters and later released.
On March 22th, Mattson, with his attorney present, told police that he had scratched the three cars and left notes on two of them, according to police documents.
Repairs to the damaged vehicles totaled about $6,150.
In a statement released by his attorney, Mattson, who practices family law, apologized to the victims and paid restitution for the damage.
"My client/Mr. Mattson cooperated fully with law enforcement’s investigation in this matter. He has accepted full responsibility for his actions and has expressed his great remorse and shame for what he did. He has extended personal apologies to all the victims and has paid full restitution for repairs to their vehicles. Mr. Mattson sought and received counseling to address the cause of this extremely aberrant behavior and is confident it will never occur again."