A federal employe has pleaded guilty to reduced assault charges stemming from a neighborhood dispute that involved a dog named Maverick, a stabbing, a call to a presidential aide and the intervention of President Reagan.
James E. Wright, 52, a government employe, was charged in January with assault with intent to kill after he stabbed a man in what Wright now calls a "big misunderstanding." He pleaded guilty last week in D.C. Superior Court to two counts of assault with a deadly weapon.
Wright's wife Elma said yesterday her husband pleaded guilty to the two weapons charges because Reagan's involvement had "blown the [case] out of proportion."
"He figured it was better than having the book thrown at him. They were persecuting him," Elma Wright said. "If you want my opinion, I think it stinks."
The complicated set of events that eventually led to Reagan's intervention -- and almost cost Wright his job -- began Jan. 16. Wright said he was cutting up a chicken in his Northwest home when he saw a group of boys throw something at his dog Maverick. Wright said he went outside to try to catch the boys.
Minutes later, though, Thomas Locks Jr. was walking home, he said, when he saw Wright standing over a young boy and holding a 10-inch knife. Locks, 25, intervened, setting in motion a disputed chain of events that led to Locks being stabbed in the chest. Wright, who has no criminal record, maintained he stabbed Locks in self-defense, while Locks said he was stabbed after trying to help the boy.
Reagan, who had seen a television report of the incident, called Locks in his hospital room to congratulate him on his heroism and later found a job for the unemployed landscaper.
Five days later, in a move Wright charges was related to Reagan's interest in the case, Wright was placed on "administrative leave" from his job as a typist at the Labor Department. Wright's wife Elma then called then-presidential assistant Michael K. Deaver, whose son goes to school with Wright's daughter, seeking to have Wright reinstated. He later returned to work in a reassigned position.
Wright faces up to 10 years in prison on each of the charges. Sentencing is set for Dec. 16.