Washington State Penitentiary

A Washington State Penitentiary inmate has been ordered to receive a sanity or diminished capacity and competency evaluation at the court’s expense.

Erick J. Nieto, 29, was charged Oct. 29, 2019, with custodial assault and fourth-degree assault for allegedly beating a fellow detainee and a corrections officer on April 6.

It wasn’t his first alleged offense.

He has been accused of attacking corrections officers three times previously, according to a Tri-City Herald report in 2017. His criminal history includes felony attempting to elude police and misdemeanor hit-and-run in 2014.

He pleaded not guilty to the most recent charges in December 2019.

Walla Walla County Superior Court Judge Scott Wolfram signed an evaluation order on Friday in which Nieto is to receive the evaluation by a doctor at Blue Mountain Psychology in Spokane at a rate of $250 per hour for three hours of records review and seven hours of travel time, as well as an evaluation and report at $1,750. The total estimate was $3,750, but the math equals $4,250.

Dr. Jameson Lontz is set to do the work, including reviewing Nieto’s records.

Nieto’s evaluation also was ordered to be sealed “until further order of the court,” records stated.

According to court records, Nieto and other inmates were visiting with their families in the East Complex when Nieto’s family began leaving, which “was abnormal” because his family usually stayed the entire allowed time.

Right after hugging his family, Nieto allegedly walked to the other inmate and began punching him, records stated. A corrections officer intervened, and Nieto punched him six or seven times, records stated. Several officers then restrained Nieto.

An unnamed visitor told investigators he saw Nieto “kiss his little girl, put her down and immediately started the assault,” records stated. It also appeared Nieto’s wife seemed to know was about to happen, according to reports.

The alleged victim told investigators he was confused about the entire episode — that he didn’t know why he was assaulted or even that Nieto was in the visiting room or in the same penitentiary unit.

Emily Thornton can be reached at or 509-526-8325.

Emily Thornton covers courts and emergency services, as well as other various stories. She has been in the newspaper industry off and on since roughly 1999 and lived primarily on the West Coast, but also Florida and Europe.