A Bremerton man accused of stabbing two brothers who caught him sawing off a catalytic converter from a box truck at their Gorst tire shop in May pleaded guilty and was sentenced to a year and a day in prison.
Though prosecutors initially charged Blake Zarkades, 37, with attempted first-degree robbery, he pleaded guilty to a count of attempted second-degree robbery and two counts of third-degree assault.
Prosecutors said surveillance video showed that Zarkades stabbed the brothers while he was trying to escape while they held him while waiting for police. During the incident, the brothers beat Zarkades with jack handles and continued beating him after he had fallen to the ground.
Zarkades pleaded guilty to the charges in September and was sentenced in October in Kitsap County Superior Court.
Thefts of catalytic converters are surging around the state. In a matter of minutes, thieves can remove the pollution control devices with an electric saw, which can then be sold to scrap metal recycling facilities for the valuable precious metals contained inside.
The cost to repair the damage for vehicle owners can run upwards of $1,000, and drivers often won’t know they have been hit until they start their car and notice a much louder engine noise than usual.
A Bremerton woman told the Kitsap Sun that on the afternoon of Dec. 31 she arrived back at her Toyota Prius in the parking lot of The Trails mall in Silverdale to find her car’s catalytic converter had been stolen during her 15-minute stop.
Kitsap County sheriff's deputies were called to Beto’s Tire Services, 3995 Highway 3, just before 3 a.m. on May 17 after the two brothers caught Zarkades and held him at gunpoint. The two told deputies they had been sleeping at the shop and were awakened to find Zarkades attempting to steal the emission device by cutting it off with a reciprocating saw.
In a letter to the court, one brother said the incident caused him to fear for his life and for retaliation from Zarkades’ associates.
“I had no time to think, all I know is that I wanted to protect my property and my family,” the man’s statement said. “I had never had any other incidents like these. I wanted him to wait until the police got there, but as soon as he heard the police were actually coming here he became erratic and out of control. That is when he stabbed me and my brother.”
One man was stabbed in the back, the other in the abdomen.
In explaining the reduced attempted robbery charge, Prosecutor Chad Enright said the video showed Zarkades stabbed the brothers while he was detained, not while he was trying to steal the catalytic converter.
“After the theft was discovered, Zarkades was held at gunpoint by one of the victims,” Enright wrote in an email to the Kitsap Sun. “He was then ordered to the ground where two victims stood over him holding floor jack handles. He attempted to escape and stabbed the victims and then was beaten by both victims, even after he had fallen to the floor. Another witness arrived and got the victims to stop beating Zarkades.”
Had prosecutors charged Zarkades with a more serious felony assault charge, Enright said defense attorneys could have raised the fact that Zarkades was being held at gunpoint, that other weapons were involved and a language barrier existed between Zarkades and the brothers.
Given these facts, Enright said Zarkades’ attorneys could have argued to a jury that Zarkades was defending himself, raising reasonable doubt at trial.
“They were doing vigilante justice and started beating him with tire jacks,” said Zarkades' attorney, Adrian Pimentel. “And he was put in a position where he had to defend himself or they could potentially hurt him, so he did.”
Pimentel said he thought the outcome was fair. If the case had gone to trial and the defense that the stabbing was justified failed, Pimentel said Zarkades could have spent 12 years or more in prison.
“We felt it was a good self-defense case, but at the same time there was the risk the jury wouldn’t be terribly sympathetic because he was stealing catalytic converters,” Pimentel said.
Enright noted that the sentence Zarkades received was longer than he would have received under state sentencing guidelines for the three crimes, sending him to prison rather than having him serve a sentence of less than one year in the Kitsap County Jail.
Further, Enright said the resolution added six months of community custody supervision when Zarkades is released.
This article originally appeared on Kitsap Sun: Catalytic converter thief who stabbed brothers who caught him gets a year in prison