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Ariz. inmate convicted in 2004 hostage standoff

Lamenting what he called the “worst verdicts I ever heard,” an inmate who took two guards hostage in a watchtower last year was convicted Wednesday on 19 charges, including sexual assault.
/ Source: The Associated Press

An inmate who took two guards hostage in a watchtower last year in one of the nation’s longest prison hostage standoffs was convicted Wednesday on 19 charges, including sexual assault.

Ricky Wassenaar, 42, was convicted of kidnapping, aggravated assault and sexual assault against a female guard who was held hostage for 15 days. He was acquitted on one count, attempted second-degree murder.

Following the reading of the verdicts in Maricopa County Superior Court, Wassenaar repeatedly said, “Worst verdicts I ever heard.”

During the trial, Wassenaar had particularly disputed the claims of sexual assault against guard Lois Fraley.

Fraley had her head down during much of the count-by-count verdict announcement, but she grinned when the jury foreman read the sexual assault verdict.

For abducted guard, ‘justice has been served’
“He is out of my mind. He is not holding me hostage anymore,” Fraley said afterward. She said she plans to go back to being a guard. “It is a beautiful day. Justice has been served,” she said.

Wassenaar is scheduled to be sentenced June 3. He faces up to 16 life sentences.

“Before (the standoff) I had an out date of 2026. Now I’ll probably have an out date of 2426,” Wassenaar told The Associated Press in a phone interview Wednesday evening.

“I accepted that risk, but I didn’t expect to be charged with things that I didn’t do. You wouldn’t think I would be that naive.”

Deception led to standoff
The hostage standoff began Jan. 18, 2004, in a prison west of Phoenix when Wassenaar and inmate Steven Coy overpowered guards and staff in a kitchen with makeshift knives. Using an officer’s uniform, Wassenaar then tricked guard Jason Auch into letting him into the armed watchtower. Coy was let in later.

Auch was released after a week, but Fraley was held for 15 days. The standoff ended after negotiators cut off electricity to the tower and agreed to transfer Coy and Wassenaar to facilities outside Arizona.

But no decision has been made about whether Wassenaar will be sent out of the state, prosecutor Jeanette Gallagher said.

“The idea that he gets to go somewhere else is abhorrent” because he would get something he wants, she said.

Acted as his own counsel
Both guards testified during the trial. Wassenaar, who acted as his own lawyer, said before the trial that his cross-examination would leave Fraley “in shreds.”

But Fraley stood her ground during nearly three hours of questioning, testifying that Wassenaar sexually assaulted her shortly after he and Coy took over the watchtower. Coy also sexually assaulted her.

Coy pleaded guilty to kidnapping, assault, sexual assault and other charges. He is serving seven life terms in Maine.

Wassenaar, who was serving a 28-year sentence for armed robbery and assault, told jurors that he and Coy never intended to escape, as prosecutors charged. He said his goal was to be transferred to a prison in Michigan to be closer to his mother. He said he never intended for anyone to be injured in the takeover.