Disruptive defendant gets 45 years for murder
Tomas Afeworki, who represented himself at trial, was convicted last month of fatally shooting another man in downtown Seattle three years ago.
Seattle Times staff reporter
A Lynnwood man who killed Michael Yohannes in downtown Seattle three years ago was sentenced to 45 years in prison on Friday during a sentencing hearing he interrupted continuously.
Tomas Afeworki, 30, who represented himself at trial after plowing through four public defenders, argued with the judge, interrupted his own sentencing attorney, refused to sign documents, claimed his fingerprints had been taken under torture and was so disruptive the judge finally ordered him taken from the courtroom.
“Just stop,” shouted King County Superior Court Judge Laura Middaugh when Afeworki refused to stop talking about evidence he wanted to admit, his appeal, his desire for courtroom transcripts, the conspiracy he said surrounded his prosecution and a “monkey clock” he claimed showed evidence of racial bias.
“I’m not going to stop,” he shouted back before being led away by a handful of guards.
Yohannes, 31, was shot in the back of the head on the afternoon of Oct. 26, 2010, at the corner of Second Avenue and Pike Street, prosecutors said. No motive was ever given by prosecutors.
Afeworki — who previously had been convicted of assault for beating another youth with a hammer, and burglary for breaking into the home of three women and holding them at gunpoint — was arrested a short time later inside the bathroom of a nearby restaurant.
Police and prosecutors said bullets were found in the toilet and that the gun which killed Yohannes was found hidden in the trash can with Afeworki’s DNA on it.
Eyewitness accounts, the distinctive clothing Afeworki was wearing at the time, a partial DNA profile found on the handgun, ballistic evidence and video-surveillance footage were also part of the state’s case.
Afeworki, however, claimed he’d been framed by police and prosecutors in an elaborate conspiracy and said the judge was biased against him.
During the trial, he took the witness stand and answered questions he posed to himself.
He asked himself why Seattle police would frame him and answered “they don’t want to look like fools.”
Because Afeworki had objected to nearly every piece of evidence against him throughout the trial, including information about prior criminal acts, Deputy Prosecutor Don Raz took the precaution of bringing in a fingerprint expert to testify that Afeworki’s fingerprints taken this month in jail matched those in his state Department of Corrections file.
In addition, Raz had two Snohomish County prosecutors testify that the man in the courtroom on Friday was the same man they’d previously taken to trial.
His sentencing attorney, John Hicks, asked the judge not to let his client's “irritating behavior” determine his sentence.
The victim’s brother, Sampson Yohannes, asked the judge to put Afeworki away for as long as possible.
“This guy is a monster and a clown,” he said. “He’s a coldhearted killer and there’s no way he should ever see the light of day again.”
Afeworki said multiple times in court that he plans to appeal his conviction.
Christine Clarridge can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 206-464-8983. Information from The Seattle Time archives is included in this report.