Hibbard Found Guilty of Aggravated Assault
A nightclub manager accused of assaulting a Richland man outside a Kennewick club last year is found guilty this afternoon.
It took the jury about an hour to convict Matthew Hibbard of third degree aggravated assault.
Hibbard sat motionless in court while the verdict was read.
Minutes later, he walked out of the courtroom with friends and family.
The victim's family says the verdict is a relief, but they say the entire incident is a tragedy for everyone involved.
After nearly seven months of questions and concerns, Ben Ensign's family is breathing a sigh of relief, knowing that the man who caused him severe brain damage last year will be held accountable.
"At the end of the day, we need justice for Ben. And so I'm very relieved that we have justice for Ben" said Sheila Barichello, Ensign's mom.
This afternoon, a jury found Hibbard guilty of third degree aggravated assault.
On July 4, 2012, Hibbard and another bouncer at Jack Didley's grabbed Ensign as he tried to re-enter the club after being kicked out.
Then, without notice, Hibbard dropped Ensign to the ground.
His head hit the sidewalk and he was paralyzed.
"In my soul, I just believed the evidence was there. The video proved everything, and so we honestly felt that a guilty verdict would come back" said Barichello.
Ensign's blood alcohol content that night was between .22 and .24.
Hibbard claimed Ensign tried to swing at him while he was holding him in the air - so he dropped him in self defense.
But the jury didn't agree.
Ensign's family however, stresses even though the verdict was in their favor, there are no winners in this case.
"The whole thing is so tragic. But again, justice has to be done. And we need to get laws in place to prevent this from happening again" said Barichello.
Ensign is still recovering from the assault, but Barichello hopes this verdict will help ease the pain for him and the family.
"I think they're going to be very elated, just knowing that this piece is done. I think it gives us a little bit of rest at this point. Maybe I can kind of go back to functioning on a day to day level because it's been very difficult" said Barichello.
The standard range sentence for third degree assault is one to three months.
But the judge can give a much longer sentence due to the aggravating circumstances.
Matthew Hibbard is still released on personal recognizance.
His sentencing hearing is tentatively scheduled for February 27th.
Ensign's family members who are with him in Spokane issued a statement today saying, "We would also like to thank the Benton County Prosecutor, Andy Miller, for his professional handling of this case and the community for supporting the excellent medical community that saved Ben's life. We also want to express our gratitude to the community for supporting Ben in his recovery and throughout the trial."