Hate crime suspect asks to be released to feed pet cat

by: KIRO 7 STAFF Updated:

Suspects charged with a Capitol Hill hate crime pleaded not guilty Thursday in King County Superior Court, and the attorney for one argued that he should be able to go home - to take care of his cat.

"He's actually very concerned with in terms of the welfare of the pet," the attorney for Trey Amberson told a judge.

But the judge kept him in jail, saying a $10,000 bail amount was reasonable. Prosecutors say Amberson is a homeless man with warrants from Alabama and Idaho, and he came to Seattle last month to attend the Northwest Folklife Festival.

Amberson, William Berger, Justin Echols and Zachary Kocikhill pleaded not guilty to malicious harassment charges. The attorney for the fifth suspect, Aaron Nelson, didn't arrive and Nelson's arraignment was moved to June 17.

Investigators said the five young men were hanging out the night of May 29 by 10th Avenue and Pike Street, near the Comet Tavern. The Comet security guard said that as people walked by, the men were making derogatory comments. He thought the group was looking for a fight.

Several people were subjects of homophobic slurs, and one of them also was also called a derogatory racial term, police said.

The group swarmed that man and began punching and kicking him, investigators said. One of the men is accused of grabbing the man around the neck and taking him to the ground. He fled, but some of the group chased after him yelling derogatory names, police said.

When police found the victim, he was shaking, crying and had "a lot of blood bleeding from a cut on his lip," Detective Nathan Janes wrote in a probable cause document.

"They were swarming on him, you know, punching him and kicking him. They had him on the ground at one point, kicking him in the head and that's when I ran up," Comet Tavern security guard Danny Walters told KIRO 7. He identified the suspects for police.

Berger appears to have no local ties and a criminal history in Florida. Echols, who also is new to Washington, has a history that includes breaking and entering, trespass and larceny. Kocikhill is from California and is being held in lieu of $10,000 bail. Police said they also found him with a 6-inch knife. Nelson, who prosecutors said wants to return to Oregon, has a history of domestic violence.