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Inmate in court in assault on fellow convict, officer

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A former Washington State Penitentiary inmate appeared Monday in Walla Walla County Superior Court for allegedly beating a fellow detainee and a corrections officer.

Erick J. Nieto, 29, was charged Oct. 29 with custodial assault and fourth-degree assault for the alleged attack on April 6. He was incarcerated at WSP when the reported attack occurred, but now he is in the Monroe Correctional Complex.

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

On Monday, defense attorney Julie Carlson Straube was appointed to represent Nieto, whose arraignment hasn’t been scheduled.

Nieto 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.

Emily Thornton can be reached at emilythornton@wwub.com 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.