Attacker gets light sentence following mistake

MEDFORD — A flawed criminal indictment allowed a man who charged Medford police with a knife earlier this month to be sentenced to just 90 days in jail, leaving police frustrated at what they view as a light sentence for a serious crime.

Jackson County Circuit Court Judge Tim Barnack gave Ronald David Slonecker, 46, the maximum penalty after Slonecker pleaded guilty to attempted first-degree assault.

Slonecker originally was charged with attempted aggravated murder and various felony assault charges after he throttled a friend during a dispute, then grabbed a knife and charged officers investigating the incident on Sept. 8.

Jackson County District Attorney Mark Huddleston admitted a mistake was made when his office filed the indictment against Slonecker. Huddleston said the indictment prepared by Senior Deputy District Attorney Karen Loomis should have included language suggesting the officers in no way influenced Slonecker's decision to rush them with a knife in his hand.

"The officers were innocent victims here," Huddleston said. "We regret an error was made and I wish the sentence was longer."

Had the language been included in the indictment, Slonecker could have been sentenced to nearly two years in prison, Huddleston said.

Medford police Chief Randy Schoen expressed frustration with the sentence.

"Our officer was the victim in this case and we feel like he was let down," Schoen said. "We feel this sends the wrong message, which is that it is not a serious crime to try and attack not only police officers but any citizen with a deadly weapon."

Police were called to Slonecker's apartment on Roberts Road the night of the incident to investigate a burglary report. Slonecker — who was highly intoxicated at the time — suspected that neighborhood teens had broken into his home. Police didn't find evidence of such a break-in or theft.

Nearly two hours later, police were again summoned to the apartment, this time for a reported assault of an Eagle Point man who later said Slonecker tried to choke him during a dispute.

Four officers investigating the assault were talking with the man and his girlfriend in a common walkway through a dark courtyard at the apartment complex when they heard someone charging through the darkness.

Slonecker was shrouded in darkness as he came at police with one arm raised over his head.

Officer James Barringer, an Air Force veteran who joined Medford's police force in March 2007, kicked Slonecker in the chest, knocking him to the ground.

Officers then saw it was Slonecker and that he had a large kitchen knife in his hand. They subdued him with a Taser and took him into custody.

Barringer read a statement to the court during the sentencing.

"If Slonecker had been successful in his 'mission' it would have affected many others," Barringer said. "The city would have lost an officer, my parents would have lost a son, my wife would have lost her husband and my children would have lost their father."

Barringer argued that Slonecker should have been charged with attempted murder.

Due to a system error, a previously published story about Slonecker's arrest inadvertantly ran in Saturday's paper.

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