ADVERTISEMENT
Advertise Here

Sirens & Gavels

Archive for November 2011

Jury convicts man of filing false liens

A federal jury on Tuesday convicted a self-proclaimed “sovereign” citizen of filing more than $20 billion in false liens against government officials.

Ronald James Davenport faces up to 40 years in prison and a $1 million fine after being convicted of four counts of filing false retaliatory liens against government officials, but he has no criminal history and likely will receive much less time.

The $5 billion liens against all property owned by former U.S. Attorney Jim McDevitt, U.S. District Court Clerk James Larsen, IRS Revenue Officer William Waight and Assistant U.S. Attorney Rolf Tangvald were filed in retaliation for a 2008 civil suit seeking $250,000 in unpaid taxes from Davenport.

“Rather than properly defend himself in the action, the defendant attacked those he perceived as facilitating the lawsuit,” prosecutors said in a trail briefing.

Davenport, then 62, was arrested in June 2010 but has been out of jail and is living in Chewelah, according to court documents.

His ex-wife described him as a vehement anti-tax advocate and told authorities he might “go Ruby Ridge” if the government tried seizing his home for unpaid taxes, according to a previous report. Davenport described himself in court filing as a sovereign, a group of people who typically do not recognize the authority of the federal government.

A sentencing date has not been set.

Rathdrum man sentenced for sex abuse

A 26-year-old Rathdrum man will spend at last seven years in prison for sexually abusing a minor.

Justin Scott Savage was sentenced Tuesday to 20 years in prison with eligibility for parole after seven for lewd conduct with a minor under 16, sexual abuse of a child under 16 and two counts of injury to jail.

1st District Court Judge Fred Gibler sentenced Savage, who pleaded guilty in September. Savage has previous misdemeanor convictions for theft, drugs and burglary, according to the Kootenai County Prosecutor's Office.

Sheriff's spokesman Major Ben Wolfinger said the injury to jail charges stem from Savage damaging the jail on several occasions.

Stabbing in West Central leads to arrest

A man was booked into jail after allegedly stabbing his roommate in West Central Spokane Monday.

Robert Aron Young, 30, was booked into Spokane County Jail Monday for first-degree assault, domestic violence.

The victim, Davis D. Botts, was taken to Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center after the attack, which occurred about 9:31 p.m. at 2202 W. Gardner Avenue. The extent of his injuries is unknown, but a hospital employee said he was not listed as a patient there Tuesday night.

According to police, Botts and his mother, Angela M. Durazo, with whom Young had an intimate relationship, were watching a movie when Young came home and a verbal fight between Durazo and Young ensued.

Botts locked Young out, but Young regained entry through Botts’ bedroom window and reached over Durazo, who was apparently trying to intervene, to stab Botts once in the chest with a folding knife with a four-inch blade, police said.

Young fled the scene, but police stopped his vehicle at Mission Avenue and Astor Street and he was arrested despite claims of self defense.

Repeat offender’s arrest reunites family

The recent arrest of a Spokane man considered a repeat offender not only led police to predict a decrease in property crimes - it led to a family reunion behind bars just in time for Thanksgiving.

Christopher Ryan Limpert, 24, (right) described by Spokane police as “an extremely active repeat offender” was booked into jail last week, joining his brother and father. 

Limpert was sent to a residential drug treatment program Oct. 18 as part of his sentence for possession of a controlled substance, but he left after five days and showed no commitment to the program, accoridng to court records.

A warrant was issued Oct. 27. Limpert was arrested Nov. 23 after a high-speed chase in which he drove over a curb at North Addison Street and East Providence Avenue, ran a stop sign at East Kiernan Avenue and North Division Street and abandoned the vehicle at near East Garland Avenue and North Perry Street before he was arrested.

Police had been looking for Limpert after witnesses said he'd left a stolen Kia Spectra in an alley near East Courtland Avenue and North Crestline Street.

Limpert's criminal history includes at least nine felonies as an adult and four as a juvenile, including theft, malicious mischief and taking a motor vehicle without permission.

His criminal record rivals that of his 26-year-old brother, Nicholas Adam Limpert, (left) who was sentenced in April to a year in prison but remains in jail as an appellate court considers his case.

Nicholas Limpert's recent felony convictions are his 10th and 11th since 2007. He avoided prison as a teenager for his role in a murder because a judge believed he could be rehabilitated. He has been arrested 67 times since, mostly for property-related crimes.

The men's father, Thomas N. Limpert, 54, was sentenced last week to two years in prison for drug convictions. He remains in jail awaiting transport to prison.

3rd suspect arraigned in bat attack

A third suspect in a baseball bat attack at a northwest Spokane home was arraigned Tuesday in Spokane County Superior Court.

Eric T. Borders, 40, pleaded not guilty to charges of first-degree robbery and first-degree burglary for his alleged involvement in an attack at 4907 N. Lincoln St. Nov. 13.

Police believe Borders and Michelle Lee Blair, 39, entered the home and Blair struck the victim with the butt end of the bat several times while demanding his debit card, according to court documents.

Police arrested suspect Andrew Emil Williamson, 38, outside the home after learning he had a Washington Department of Corrections warrant. They booked him on a first-degree robbery charge after finding him with items belonging to the victim, according to court documents.

The three suspects are in the Spokane County Jail.
  

Symphony heckler removed by police

Police in Western Washington removed a woman from a symphony performance earlier this month for yelling “boring” in the midst of the concert.

The woman's teenage daughter plays in the symphony, according to the Kitsap Sun.

The woman told police “that was how things were” between her and her daughter, the newspaper reports.

Get the full scoop here.

Man gets 69 months for robbery spree

A Spokane man who participated in an armed robbery spree last year has been sentenced to five years and nine months in prison.

Sean T. Smith, 24, was sentenced to 69 months in prison after pleading guilty last week in Spokane County Superior Court to two counts of first-degree robbery.

Smith was arrested after armed robberies in November and December 2010 at the Holiday gas station on North Argonne Road, Sam’s Stop and Shop on East Sprague Avenue, Nevada Street Brew Espresso, McQuick Mart on South Regal, and the Zip Trips at Fourth Avenue and Sullivan Road and at Illinois Street and Perry Place. Smith told police he spent the stolen money on methamphetamine.

Vanessa E. Orr, 24, also was sentenced last week after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit first-degree robbery and first-degree trafficking in stolen property. Shew as credited for 313 days served in jail and is to be on probation for a year.

Co-defendant Aaron L. Goldstein was sentenced in August to 74 months in prison after pleading guilty to five counts of second-degree robbery and conspiracy to commit second-degree robbery.

A fourth suspect, Orr's brother, Donald Lindquist, is scheduled for trial Dec. 12.
  

Spokane police arrest burglary suspect

A woman interrupted a burglary at her home Monday, and Spokane police arrested a suspect based on her description of the culprit.

 Police responded to the 1900 block of West Montgomery Avenue just before 1 p.m., where a woman said she arrived home to find a strange bicycle in her yard. She “eventually flushed the burglar from her house,” according to a police news release, and discovered thousands of dollars of property missing, including a handgun.

About an hour later, a man matching the burglar's description ran into a “known problem house” in the 1800 block of West Chelan Avenue after Officer Bruce Palmer tired to contact him, police said.

He was eventually arrested and identified as Christopher Mathew Smith, 21, (pictured) who was wanted on a felony Department of Corrections escape warrant for theft and assault convictions in Pierce County.

Officers obtained a search warrant for the home and recovered most of the property stolen from the Montgomery home, including the handgun, police said. Smith is to appear in Spokane County Superior Court today on charges of first-degree burglary and felon in possession of a firearm.

Spokane police have eliminated the property crimes unit and say only about 5 percent of cases will be investigated, but Smith's arrest is an example of how patrol officers and other units still respond to property crimes on a daily basis.

“While property crime investigation is down city wide, it should be noted that patrol officers when time permits, follow up calls as much as possible, especially when there are good investigatory leads,” Officer Dan Waters said in the news release.

“It should also be noted that MOST burglaries in our city occur during daylight hours when people are generally at work.  Due to observant and diligent neighbors, officers are able to make similar arrests,” Waters continued. “Please continue to look out for your neighbors and don't hesitate to call police if you see anything or anyone that looks suspicious or out of place.  Officers would much rather respond BEFORE a crime has been committed.”

Charge dropped against 1 Pirtle brother

A Spokane man once accused of a baseball bat attack last May has been cleared of wrongdoing after several people said he wasn't present during the assault.

Prosecutors moved to dismiss a second-degree assault charge against Andrew Lee Elias Pirtle, 21, after detectives interviewed witnesses and found evidence supporting his alibi, said his public defender, Kevin Griffin.

Pirtle “wasn't even there” when a young man was beaten in Cannon Hill Park, 800 W. 19th Ave., on May 14, Griffin said. A judge agreed to the prosecution's request earlier this month.

Pirtle's older brother, Jayce Leon Elton Pirtle Jr., 23, still is charged with second-degree assault for the attack. He faces life in prison if convicted because of Washington's three-strikes law. He posted bond Nov. 16 but was arrested again last week on a new federal indictment charging him with felon in possession of a firearm and unlawful possession of stolen firearms.

U.S. Magistrate Cynthia Imbrogno on Monday ordered Jayce Pirtle to stay in jail without bail after hearing testimony from his mother, Debra Pirtle.

The Pirtles are the nephews of Blake Pirtle, who murdered two Burger King employees in Spokane Valley in 1992. His death sentence was overturned after a judge ruled law enforcement violated his civil rights during his arrest.

The Pirtles claim police unfairly target them because of that case.

Murder suspect, victim aspiring rappers

A 21-year-old man shot to death at a Spokane hotel early Sunday tried to intervene in a fight when he was shot in the chest by a man his friends recognized as an aspiring young local rapper, witnesses told police.

 Witnesses told police that victim Jose A. “Junior” Solis, Jr., was part of a rap group from Moses Lake in town for a concert at a downtown bar when a fight broke out with the suspected gunman, identified by detectives as John Anthony Castro, 27 (pictured).

Castro, who raps under the name “Lil Danger,” remains in jail on $1 million bond after appearing in Spokane County District Court Monday on a second-degree murder charge. If convicted, he faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison without parole under Washington’s three-strikes law because of two previous violent convictions.

Read the rest of my story here.

2nd man arrested in porn shop robbery

A fingerprint found on merchandise at a Spokane porn store helped police identify a second suspect in a gunpoint robbery earlier this month.

Clinton James Smith, 50, (right) was arrested Wednesday on first-degree robbery and first-degree kidnapping charges. He's accused with James A. Turnipseed, 32, of robbing the Hollywood Erotic Boutique, 3813 N. Division St., and tying up the clerk on Nov. 8.

Turnipseed (left) was arrested a couple blocks away while riding a bike shortly after the robbery and remains in jail on $75,000 bond. Police say he had two bags containing erotic material stolen from the store.

A fingerprint found on merchandise packaging at the store matched Smith's, and police found a hat with the name “Smith” embroidered on it in a backpack that was left at the store when the robbers fled, according to court documents prepared by Spokane police major crimes Detective Chet Gilmore.

Smith denied participating in the robbery and told police he'd only been in the store twice and never handled the merchandise.

An acquaintance of Turnipseed and Smith told police Turnipseed called him from jail the night he was arrested and said he'd been caught because of Smith and Smith “needed to come down and do something about it,” documents say.

Smith told the man he was sitting at the park near the porn shop when Turnipseed ran up, grabbed the bike and said “I gotta go.” A confidential source told police Smith had talked about planning to rob the store three weeks before the hold up.

Smith already has two felony cases pending in Spokane County - a WalMart theft case from February and a stolen car case from December 2010.

Accused killer has long criminal history

In this Nov. 14, 2003, photo, John Castro talks with police and Spokane SWAT members from a roof on East Gordon Avenue after barging inside, kicking out the residents and daring the police to shoot him. (SRPhoto/Jed Conklin)

A 27-year-old man suspected of shooting another man to death in a fight at a downtown Spokane hotel has an extensive criminal history. 

John Anthony Castro (pictured in 2009) was released from prison in July 2007 after serving three years and four months for second-degree robbery, second-degree assault, delivery of cocaine, attempt to elude police and first-degree malicious mischief, according to court records.

He was arrested in November 2003 after a standoff with police that began six hours earlier when he left a home he had invaded and led police on a high-speed chase through residential neighborhoods. Castro was released from Department of Corrections supervision in July 2010.

Now he's back in custody on a second-degree murder charge for a fatal shooting at the Quality inn, 110 E. Fourth Ave., about 2:40 a.m. on Sunday.

The Spokane County Medical Examiner's Office is conducting on autopsy on the 21-year-old victim today. He has been identified as Jose Arturo Solis. Castro is being held on $1 million bond. Read more here.

Steven Tramp, the manager of Quality Inn, said the shooting involved a group originating in Moses Lake was occupying a dozen rooms at the hotel after attending a concert in Spokane.  Read more from Pia Hallenberg's story here.

Man in ‘95 Idaho fraud charged again

Faith Gallinger stands in the kitchen of her North Side bungalow. The contractor has yet to do the $2,500 worth of work she paid for. (SRPhoto/Jesse Tinsley)

Faith Gallinger had long wanted custom cabinets for her early 20th-century home in northeast Spokane. Ronald Glen Stratton seemed perfect for the task – he boasted of being able to do the work for only labor costs because he already had the supplies. But she had to act fast – someone else was looking at the same wood and supplies were limited.

 More than a year and $2,500 later, the old, mismatched cabinets still in her kitchen serve as a reminder of what Gallinger, a 33-year-old pediatric nurse, says was a good but expensive lesson in the risky business of private contracting.

“I wouldn’t just assume that he was trying to scam me,” Gallinger said. “I guess I’m just kind of naive and very trusting. Well, maybe not anymore.”

Worse than a business deal gone bad, detectives and prosecutors allege it was a deliberate crime with at least 12 victims that Stratton (pictured) has been committing for more than a decade.

Read the rest of my story here.

Past coverage:

Dec. 23, 1995: Stratton sentenced in contractor fraud case

March 15, 1995: Contractor faces criminal charges

Scammers target septic tank owners

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Talk about a dirty scam.

Federal prosecutors in Florida say at least three people working for a septic tank company duped customers into buying about $1 million in unnecessary products — in some cases enough toilet paper to last more than 70 years.

More than a dozen customers were told they needed special toilet paper to avoid ruining their septic tanks because the federal government changed regulations on toilet paper. The federal government does not regulate septic tank products.

The trio pleaded guilty in federal court to conspiring to commit wire fraud. The Miami Herald reported that they worked for Riviera Beach-based FBK Products.

The trio faces up to two decades in prison when they are sentenced in February.

Happy Thanksgiving from Sirens!

We here at Sirens & Gavels hope you'll be enjoying a dinner similar to this one with your friends and family on Thursday. (The Internets/Google Images)

Happy Thanksgiving from Sirens & Gavels! I hope everyone has a great holiday with their family and friends.

The blog will be back Monday afternoon.

City Council rebukes Thompson salute

Police officers who saluted Officer Karl F. Thompson in a federal courtroom earlier this month have received more official criticism.

The Spokane City Council on Monday voted unanimously to denounce the “courtroom behavior” of the nearly 50 officers who honored Thompson as he was led out of a hearing on his way to jail after being found guilty of two felony charges related to the police confrontation with Otto Zehm, a Spokane man who died as a result of injuries he suffered in the confrontation in 2006.

Spokane Mayor Mary Verner, Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick, Mayor-elect David Condon and Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich have also denounced the officers’ salute, which was done in the presence of Zehm family members.

The nonbinding resolution, which was sponsored by Councilman Jon Snyder, also voiced support for the creation of a citizens’ panel, led by a former Gonzaga Law School dean, to examine the city’s handling of the legal matters associated with the case and Verner’s request to the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the Police Department’s policies and procedures.


  

Police: Man tried to light wife on fire

An unemployed Dalton Gardens man allegedly doused his wife with gasoline and tried to light her on fire during a dispute at their home last weekend.

 Daniel Joe Zehm, 52, of 6103 15th St., was taken into custody by Kootenai County sheriff's deputies following an altercation that began Saturday night and culminated with the alleged attempt to incinerate Sondra Zehm, 58.

According to sheriff's reports, the argument began when Daniel Zehm told his wife he thought a nurse at his mother's assisted living place was attractive.

Daniel Zehm allegedly pinned his wife on their bed and threatened to kill her, her dog and her family. He then drenched his wife with a bucket of gasoline when she had her back to him while making coffee the following morning.

Sondra Zehm, who deputies say still smelled of gasoline after a shower, said that her husband was flicking the red lighter she'd given him to light a fire in his shop as he moved toward her.

Zehm was arrested on an attempted murder charge, but it was dismissed today in Kootenai County District Court. He was released from jail on $200,000 for felony charges of burglary and aggravated battery.

2 stabbings, 4 arrests in armed robbery

A gunpoint drug robbery at a northeast Spokane home led to two stabbings and four arrests early Saturday.

A victim, identified in court documents as Jason Paz, called police about 2:20 a.m. and said he'd been stabbed at a home in the 3900 block of East Ermina Avenue.

Spokane police officers found the second victim, Kelley L. Tate, at the home with cuts to her face; she was transported to a hospital in serious condition, according to court documents.

  A third alleged victim, Willie Sprayberry, told police he was sleeping in the basement when he was awakened by three men who told him he was being robbed. They led him at gunpoint upstairs to Tate and Paz, where Tate rushed the gunman and was hit in the head with an unknown object, according to police. The robbers stole cash, a wallet and a bone-handled knife before fleeing, officers said. 

Witnesses said suspect James R. Sprayberry, 26, (pictured) waited in a car outside. It's unclear how he's related to victim Willie Sprayberry.

Police drove to Sprayberry's home in the 1600 block of West York Avenue and stopped a vehicle nearby with six suspects.

Tate identified Shanteek M. Pruitt, 19; and Christopher L. Eakle, 24, as being in the home. Police found a bloody knife in Christopher A. Stoker's pocket, which led to the 27-year-old's arrest.

Pruitt told police she was at a party when she wanted to buy marijuana, so she drove to the north side with Stoker, Eakle, Sprayberry and a person who was not arrested.

Pruitt went into the home after about 20 minutes and saw Eakle and Paz fighting over a bag of marijuana before Eakle stabbed Paz several times, according to court documents.

Stoker said he had a “vicious fight” with the homeowner and that Pruitt originally had the knife but that he didn't see the stabbing.

Stoker also told police he was “screwed because he was a three striker and would go to prison for the rest of his life,” documents say.

The suspects appeared in Superior Court today on first-degree robbery and first-degree burglary charges.

Fire at Wal-Mart leads to arson arrest

A man was arrested on a felony arson charge recently for allegedly lighting a fire at the Airway Heights Wal-Mart using sanitation wipes.

Stephen D. Rye, 55, was captured on surveillance video lighting the fire about 4:45 a.m. on Friday and watching it burn until Wal-Mart employees arrived to put it out, according to court documents prepared by Spokane County sheriff's detectives.

Rye was also seen taking the sanitation wipes, which are 65 percent alcohol, from a dispenser at Wal-Mart, lighting them on fire and kicking it down an aisle, igniting Wal-Mart fliers that were on the floor, police allege.

A motive for the alleged crime is unclear. Rye spent the weekend in jail and appeared in Superior Court Monday on a first-degree arson charge.

Driver arraigned in wrong-way I90 crash

A Spokane woman who was driving the wrong way on Interstate 90 when she struck and killed 27-year-old Post Falls motorist in March was arraigned today on two felony charges. 

Teri Marie Scheele, 30, told police she had taken an oxycodone pill and “a couple” of hydrocodone pills before the three-car crash on March 25 about 3:10 a.m. at milepost 293 in the eastbound lanes under the Barker Road overpass, according to a probable cause affidavit filed Nov. 4 in Superior Court.

Kenneth Joel Hardin (pictured) was pronounced dead at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center.

Police say Scheele had slurred speech but did not smell of intoxicants. A blood test showed signs of Oxycodone and Hydromorphone use, according to the affidavit.

A Washington State Patrol detective talked to seven people who saw Scheele driving the wrong way on the interstate.

The detective also talked to the driver of the third vehicle, Andrew R. Samek, 37, of Hayden, who, despite initial reports that he wasn't injured, suffered a broken neck when he struck Hardin's 1989 Mazda MX6 coupe while trying to avoid the crash then hit a cable barrier, documents say.

Scheele pleaded not guilty today to vehicular homicide and vehicula assault. She's out of custody awaiting trial, which her public defender, Derek Reid, said is scheduled to begin Feb. 13.

‘Judge Judy’ to feature Spokane case

Two Spokane County residents will appear on the TV reality show “Judge Judy” tomorrow as part of a landlord-tenant dispute. 

Shennen Blackburn of Liberty Lake is suing former tenant Samuel Doyle, of Spokane, for allegedly damaging her rental property, according to a press release.

 Blackburn said Doyle, 25, (pictured right) lived at the home for a year and caused severe damage when he moved out. She said she added Doyle to the lease with Tyler McKinley, but Doyle said he never had a lease and just lived there.

Blackburn said McKinley never actually lived at the home.

Judge Judy Sheindlin calls Doyle “a hustler.” “You know, you may hustle this nice lady here, I guarantee you, you’re not going to hustle me. Guarantee,” Sheindlin tells Doyle, the press release said.

Watch the episode Tuesday at 4 p.m. on KHQ channel 6.

A “Judge Judy” episode featuring two Spokane residents last year led to new criminal charges against a fraud suspect. Read more here.

The same day a reporter received word of Doyle's TV appearance, Spokane County sheriff's detectives filed a search warrant that was used to seize items from Doyle's home last week in an ongoing marijuana investigation.

Detectives searched a home on Judkins Road earlier this month and, in addition to arresting five suspects and seizing eight pounds of marijuana and 1,000 plants, found paperwork in Doyle's name, according to the search warrant. The home's electricity bill was in McKinley's name.

Interviews led detectives to believe Doyle claimed to be growing the marijuana for medical marijuana patients, and that he'd offered a man $5,000 to help him.

Doyle was described as a “the business guy in all of this,” according to the search warrant. Others told detectives they saw Doyle at the growhouse checking on the plants and asking “the trimmers” how the work was going. 

Detectives searched Doyle's home in the 10900 block of East 7th Avenue in Spokane Valley on Nov. 16.

Doyle, who is on probation for possessing 10 pounds of marijuana in Oregon, is not in custody. The investigation is ongoing.

Suspected gunman hides in koi pond

A suspected gunman took a plunge into a cold koi fish pond but couldn't hidehis smell from the police dog that tracked him to his backyard hiding spot Sunday, police said.

Before being carted off, Aaron P. Williams, 23, of Spokane, was checked for hypothermia. He was booked into the Spokane County Jail on a charge of first-degree assault with a firearm, police said.

Williams is to appear in Superior Court today on that charge and an additional charge of second-degree unlawful posession of a firearm.

The arrest followed a shooting just before 2 a.m. in the parking lot of the nearby Goodtymes Pub, 9214 E. Mission Ave., during a confrontation between two groups of men.

One man suffered a non-life-threatening gunshot wound to the leg, police said.

The alleged shooter ran south from the pub and was tracked by the Spokane Valley police dog to a home in the 9300 block of East Sinto Avenue.

A small, semi-automatic handgun that police believe was used in the shooting was found in a nearby mailbox.

Cops: Man rams repo men w/ Jeep

A Jeep repossession led to a man's arrest on felony assault charges after he rammed a repossession officer's car Thursday in Spokane Valley, according to police.

Cullen Joe Gibson-Snodgrass, 30, was driving a 1999 Jeep Wrangler when two repossession officers with Phoenix Financial, Kelly J. Brown and Jason E. Lyons, spotted him near East Sprague Avenue and North Bowdish Road, according to court documents prepared by police

Brown and Lyons were looking to repossess the Jeep and followed Gibson-Snodgrass for several blocks until he stopped the Jeep in the road, put it in reverse and rammed into Brown's car, documents say. Brown cut his index finger in the crash.

Gibson-Snodgrass appeared in Spokane County Superior Court Friday on two counts of first-degree assault. He's already awaiting trial on unrelated charges of first-degree theft, first-degree trafficking in stolen property and residential burglary. Prosecutors appear to have reconsidered the charges - he's due back in court this afternoon on two counts of second-degree assault/
  

Man arraigned on racist fraud allegation

A man already facing up to 10 years in prison for a gun conviction pleaded not guilty today to identity theft charges that prosecutors say were part of a white supremacist-related terrorist plot.

Wayde Lynn Kurt, 53, faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted of aggravated identity theft, two counts of unlawful production of an identification card, two counts of unlawful possession of an identification card and one count of making a false statement. The last charge is related to Kurt allegedly using a fake identity to obtain a Post Office box.

He was arraigned today before U.S. Magistrate Cynthia Imbrogno in Spokane and is in custody at the Spokane County Jail without bail.

Kurt was arrested in August 2010 for being a felon in possession of a firearm for  five firearms he possessed while target shooting with a white supremacist, David Johnathan Udseth, who was secretly recording him for the FBI. A jury convicted Kurt last month. He denies being a racist and old jurors he spoke of a racist plan with Udseth only to infiltrate the group because its members had assaulted a friend, and he wanted to monitor them.

Prosecutors say Kurt said he was producing fraudulent identification cards for a “task” for which he had been preparing for years.

Kurt said “he would need 30 days to establish a new identity, noting the name 'Wayde Kurt would only a bring a bad reputation to a publicly exposed political movement,'” according to court documents.

Thompson’s lawyers cite jury interview

Karl Thompson's lawyers say jury forewoman Diane Riley's statements to media this week are further evidence of the need to examine whether outside information was considered in deliberations.

Riley told The Spokesman-Review no jurors considered information not presented at trial when the convicted Thompson of excessive force and lying to investigators, but she also said a juror knew someone who lived in Spokane and that politics here are corrupt and dirty.”

“The fact that the allegedly 'corrupt' or 'dirty' politics of Spokane was discussed during jury deliberations is particularly alarming given the fact that the jury made its determination regarding Defendant Thompson's guilt based upon its belief that 'everybody felt 100 percent that this was a police cover-up,” lawyer Courtney Garcea wrote in a declaration filed today. “Whether there was or was not a police cover-up was not an issue to ever be considered by the jury.”

Garcea points to Riley's comment that “most of us had never heard of this case” as acknowledging that outside information such as Zehm's mental illness or his purported innocence could have been considered.

She also points to statements Riley made to KREM 2 news that jurors suspected Otto Zehm may have been disabled by looking at photos of him as a sign that jurors improperly considered that information when reaching the verdict.

She also points to Riley's statement that Zehm was taken from this Earth “because of the mistake and bad judgment of another man.”

In order to convict Thompson of using excessive force, jurors had to find that he acted with bad or evil intent. Garcea says Riley's statement shows the jury erred in convicting Thompson, and that they inaccurately believed Thompson caused Zehm's death.

Judge Fred Van Sickle has not yet ruled on the request by defense attorneys that jurors be questioned about their deliberations.

Also this week, Thompson's lawyers filed a motion for him to be acquitted, saying the government failed to prove its case.

The written motion, which seeks a hearing on Dec. 19, is essentially the same motion attorney Carl Oreskovich unsuccessful argued during the four-week trial in Yakima.

Thompson faces several years in prison at his sentencing scheduled for Jan. 27.

Knezovich offers to lead Spokane police

The search to replace Spokane Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick hasn’t even begun, but there’s already a high-profile candidate: Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich.

 Knezovich confirmed Thursday that he’s willing to serve as the city’s interim chief, an administrative role he believes he could fill while continuing to run the sheriff’s office.

“It wouldn’t be any different than leading a bigger force,” Knezovich said.

Read the rest of Jonathan Brunt's story here.

Past coverage:

Nov. 12: Chief Kirkpatrick to step down on Jan. 2

Convicted robber ducks jail - briefly

A 19-year-old man who didn't report to jail after a jury convicted him of robbing elderly women was arrested Thursday.

Jonathan R. Crisler was convicted of felony robbery charges this week after a jury trial in Superior Court.
Judge Tari Eitzen gave him 24 hours to post a new $25,000 bond or turn himself in, but he didn't do so.

Spokane police booked him into jail Thursday night, where he'll await sentencing currently scheduled for Nov. 29.

Crisler was first arrested in March for a string of purse robberies between March 17 and March 19. In each case, an elderly woman was followed home from the grocery store and attacked.

Co-defendant Isaac J. Murphy is scheduled for trial on Nov. 28. Andrey A. Murray's trial is scheduled to begin Dec. 12.
  

Wash. man caught w/ gift-wrapped pot

This undated photo provided by the Ohio State Highway Patrol shows a gift-wrapped package containing 25 individually wrapped packets of marijuana.

SPRINGFIELD, Ohio (AP) — Ohio troopers making a traffic stop say they found a pot present: a gift-wrapped package containing 25 individually wrapped packets of marijuana.

The driver, from Washington state, has been charged with trafficking and possession of marijuana and possession of criminal tools, both felonies, and a misdemeanor count of driving under suspension.

The State Highway Patrol says the 28 pounds of pot discovered in the car's trunk is valued at more than $63,000.

Thirty-five-year-old Robert Gomez of Bremerton, Wash., is being held in the Clark County jail. Jail officials didn't know whether he had an attorney, and none was indicated in court records.

Cats outnumber inmates at Fla. prison

BELLE GLADE, Fla. (AP) — Authorities say dozens of cats that sneaked into a South Florida prison will be found new homes before the facility closes next month.

As many as 80 cats have burrowed under fences and taken up residence at the state-run prison in Belle Glade. Prisoners have been feeding the animals, even though rules prohibit that.

The 1,000-inmate prison closes Dec. 1. Officials tell The Palm Beach Post that as of Monday, there are more cats than prisoners at the facility. Just 69 inmates remain awaiting transfers.

Palm Beach County animal control officers are removing the cats so they won't starve when the prison closes. They're offering to waive adoption fees to find them new homes.

Some of the cats have been euthanized because they were feral and couldn't be adopted.

Alleged Ponzi scheme brings 110 charges

When asked by a reporter about the alleged Ponzi scheme, Doris “Dee” Nelson, right, breaks down crying while her husband Dennis, looks on at their rural home in north of Colbert on Sept.. 22. (SRPhot/Jesse Tinsley)

Federal prosecutors filed a 110-count felony indictment Thursday against Doris “Dee” Nelson, architect of an alleged international Ponzi scheme that netted $126 million to prop up payday lender Little Loan Shoppe.

Nelson asked for a federal public defender during an initial appearance in U.S. District Court on Thursday afternoon.

Read the rest of John Stucke's story here.

Past coverage:

Sept. 25: Alleged Ponzo scheme shatters lives

Grand jury indicts Pirtle for stolen guns

A member of a Spokane family that claims police target them because of their relation to a notorious double murderer was indicted Wednesday by a grand jury - the same day he left jail on $25,000 bond in an assault case.

Jayce Leon Elton Pirtle Jr., 23, who already is facing life in prison under Washington's three-strikes law for an assault charge, now faces two federal felony charges for three guns and 175 rounds of ammunition found in his apartment at 1808 E. Pacific Ave. on July 8.

His probation officer found a .357 handgun after learning police were investigating Pirtle for a burglary, according to court documents. Spokane police obtained a search warrant and seized the handgun, along with two rifles.

Pirtle was arrested that day on a second-degree assault charge for an alleged baseball bat beating that left a man with a permanent lip disfigurement in May. His brother, Andrew Lee Elias Pirtle, also is charged.

He has not yet been arraigned on the federal charges of felon in possession of firearms and ammo and unlawful possession of stolen firearms and ammo. The charges carry up to 10 years in prison, or at least 15 years if Pirtle is found to be an armed career criminal.

The Pirtles are the nephews of Blake Pirtle, who killed two Burger King employees in Spokane Valley 1992. His death sentence was overturned after a judge ruled law enforcement violated his civil rights during his arrest.

The Pirtles claim police unfairly target them because of that case. Spokane police spokeswoman Officer Jennifer DeRuwe says the family has a “propensity for crime” that earns law enforcement attention.

Tim Moses resigns as police spokesman

Spokane police Officer Tim Moses has resigned as a public information officer at the advice of his lawyer.

 Moses, who told jurors at Karl Thompson's trial that the FBI intimidated him into giving false incriminating testimony to a grand jury, has been “under a lot of fire” lately, said lawyer Chris Bugbee.

“I'd like to see him keep his head down,” Bugbee said. “There's a lot going on right now and I don't think that he needs to be the one that's making official statements for either the police department or the Guild right now.”

 Moses, well known by media for his jovial attitude and sense of humor, will remain one of two Guild vice presidents, Bugbee said. He will continue to work as a patrol officer.

“I think he's a great officer,” Bugbee said.

Bugbee said he suggested the resignation to Moses on Tuesday after he was quoted in a Spokesman-Review story about Mayor Mary Verner requesting the U.S. Department of Justice investigate the police department.

“I think he realizes the public at this point is looking closely at all of the officers that were involved so he'd like to stand back a little bit and let somebody else take that responsibility,” Bugbee said. “The public has strong opinions about him.”

Bugbee said Moses is not the subject of a grand jury investigation.

The forewoman of the jury that convicted Thompson told The Spokesman-Review this week that Moses' testimony was pivotal in convincing them the case was a vast police cover-up. Bugbee talked with Moses about resigning as PIO before the article was published.

Moses was given a letter of immunity before testifying at Thompson's trial. He said he gave false statements to the grand jury regarding Thompson saying he hit Otto Zehm in the head and neck with a police baton - which would constitute unlawful lethal force - because the FBI intimidated him.

Thompson's lawyer, Carl Oreskovich, told jurors that the FBI had Moses wrapped around an axle. Bugbee said Moses never meant to mislead anyone.

“I know Tim just got himself in a corner, and he's getting some public criticism over it,” Bugbee said.

Moses has long criticized media coverage of the Thompson case, but Bugbee said today that his resignation for a position dedicated to dealing with the media is not fueled by anger.

“He and I discussed it and he was leaning toward continuing to do it, but I pointed out that maybe, out of respect for some of these strong perceptions in the public right now, maybe it would be the best thing to give it up for a while,” Bugbee said. “And that really was a driving reason.”

“I think he appreciates that the public does have strong feelings, and maybe now he's just become a little too well known in reference to these recent events and it's time to step back,” Bugbee continued.

Past coverage:

Nov. 2: Bugbee: Tim Moses didn't cover anything up

Police seek info on downtown assault

Police are asking for help identifying two people sought for questioning about an assault in downtown Spokane last month.

A surveillance image released today shows the man and woman, who police describe as “persons of interest” in a fight between two men in the area of North Howard Street and West Riverside Avenue Oct. 18 at 10:20 p.m. The victim suffered significant injuries, police said.

Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Check at (509) 456-2233.

FBI: Indicted racist had terrorism plans

A reputed white supremacist convicted last month of a gun charge related to an alleged domestic terrorism plot has been indicted by a grand jury for an alleged identity theft scheme.

Wayde Lynn Kurt, 53, is accused of producing fraudulent identification cards for a “task” for which he had been preparing for years, according to a briefing federal prosecutors wrote for his gun trial last month.

Kurt likened the plan to the Oklahoma City bombing and said he would do everything in his power to stop President Obama from being reelected, prosecutors say.

Kurt said “he didn't want innocent people to die but it was possible they would die,” according to the briefing. Kurt “stated that it would be an act of terrorism of the worst kind and would mean a death sentence if he was caught.”

Kurt wrote a letter to an FBI informant in May 2010 discussing the need to establish a white government based on the gold or silver standard, prosecutors say.

“Kurt also wrote that he would need 30 days to establish a new identity, noting the name 'Wayde Kurt would only bring a bad reputation to a publicly exposed political movement,'” according to the trial briefing.

A jury in U.S. District Court in Spokane convicted Kurt last month of felon in possession of a firearm for five firearms he possessed while target shooting with a white supremacist, David Johnathan Udseth, in August 2010, according to court documents.

Kurt told jurors he spoke of a racist plan with Udseth only to infiltrate the group because its members had assaulted a friend, and he wanted to monitor them. He denies being a white supremacist, said his lawyer, Richard Wall.

Kurt alleges Udseth and the FBI entrapped him, but Judge Wm. Fremming Nielsen ruled not reasonable person would believe that prohibited jurors from considering the entrapment defense during deliberations.

Wall expects Kurt will appeal his conviction.

“If he had given that instruction the jury would have acquitted him,” Wall said. “Without the entrapment instruction the only thing they could do was convict him because there was no question he was in possession of the weapons at one point.”

Kurt was arrested on Aug. 30, 2010. He was considered such a risk that the FBI didn’t give him a chance to surrender - an agent ran up and tackled him. He faces up to 10 years in prison at his sentencing, which is scheduled for Jan. 26.

Now he faces new charges of aggravated identity theft, two counts of unlawful production of an identification card, two counts of unlawful possession of an identification card and one count of making a false statement under a grand jury indictment filed Wednesday. The charges carry up to 15 years in prison.

Kurt was a member of a racist group led by Keegan VanTuyl, 29, (right) who was released from federal prison last week after serving time for violation his probation on a firearms conviction.

Kurt was recruited into the group in late December 2008 after exchanging a racist greeting with key member Daniel “Church” Wilson (left) when encountering him and other group members in downtown Spokane, according to the trial briefing. The group “routinely traveled around Spokane looking for minorities to bait into a verbal and/or physical altercation, a practice referred to by group members as “coon hunting.”“

 Kurt was asked to become the leader of the group after VanTuyl and Wilson were imprisoned, but the group instead disbanded, prosecutors say.

The jury deliberated just a few hours Oct. 21 before convicting Kurt, who has been in jail since his arrest. The conviction is the latest for a convicted currency counterfeiter whose experience with the criminal justice system dates back to at least 1988, when he was acquitted of murder in Snohomish County.

Udseth was sentenced to three years probation Wednesday in U.S. District Court for manufacture of marijuana and possession with intent to distribute marijuana in relation to 90 plants and six pounds of harvested pot found during a search at his home in May.

Udseth said he had a medical marijuana card, according to his plea agreement, but such a card only authorizes 15 marijuana plants and a pound and a half of marijuana, and federal law doesn't recognize medical marijuana.

Baseball bat attack leads to 2 arrests

A baseball bat attack at a north Spokane home early Sunday led to the arrest of two people.

 The victim told Spokane police officers he was home at 4907 N. Lincoln St. when two people entered the home about 3:15 a.m.

A woman, later identified by police as Michelle Lee Blair, 39, struck him with the butt end of the bat several times while demanding his debit card, according to court documents. 

The victim ran outside the home to police lights and told officers people were trying to kill him.

Police arrested Andrew Emil Williamson, 38, (pictured) outside the home after learning he had a Washington Department of Corrections warrant. They booked him on a first-degree robbery charge after finding him with items belonging to the victim, according to court documents.

Blair was arrested Monday by the Spokane police Patrol Anti-Crime Team in the area of East Fourth Avenue and South Stone Street. She remains in jail on charges of first-degree robbery and residential burglary, as well as unrelated drug charges. Williamson is in jail on a probation hold.

Union leaders open to DOJ investigation

Spokane Police Department union leaders said Tuesday they’re happy to cooperate with a possible federal investigation of the department and have no concerns about what it may find.

“We know that we need the community to believe in us again, and that’s why we know this is a good thing,” said Lt. Joe Walker, president of the 13-member Spokane Police Lieutenants and Captains Association.

Read the rest of my story here.

Suspects plead not guilty to ‘07 murder

Three young people arrested for the 2007 shooting death of a 30-year-old Spokane man pleaded not guilty to murder charges Tuesday in Superior Court.

Derrick Gregory Martin-Armstead, 20; (left) Jaleesa D. Anderson, 22; and Marc A. Anderson, 20, (right) each are charged with a single count of first-degree murder.

  Martin-Armstead was arrested Oct. 24 after an informant told police he'd implicated himself in the murder of Daniel J. Burgess during conversations at the jail in May and June 2008.

Burgess was shot to death on Nov. 12, 2007 while in the living room of a home at 2413 N. Dakota Ave. The three suspects remain in jail.

The murder investigation has led to two search warrants targeting controlled substances this month.

On. Nov. 3, detectives search a 2000 Buick LaSabre belonging to Martin-Armstead as part of a crack cocaine investigation. A confidential informant had bought crack cocaine from Martin-Armstead in July and August.

Martin-Armstead was driving the Buick when he was arrested on the murder charge. He told Detective Jeff Barrington that “he did sell crack cocaine but that he was not involved in any homicide,” according to a search warrant.

Barrington and Detective Kevin Langford seized only a box for a scale from the Buick. Five days later, Barrington went to an apartment at 202 E. Wedgewood Ave. to talk to Tyrone J. Carell about the homicide investigation.

Barrington said he saw a drug scale, marijuana bud and bong in the apartment, which smelled of marijuana. He came back less than two hours later with a search warrant, seizing suspected marijuana, paraphernalia, and a semi-automatic handgun.

Carell, who was targeted in the Hoopfest shooting in June 2010, has not been charged.

Man gets 5 years for CdA bank robbery

A Spokane bank robber already headed to prison for 10 years was sentenced Tuesday to five years for orbbing a bank in Coeur d'Alene.

Michael Richard Kent, 40, is to serve the sentence the same time as his 129-month sentence in Spokane County Superiro Court for robberies Dec. 16, 2009, at Chase Bank, 822 W. Francis Ave., and Dec. 24, 2009, at Numerica Credit Union, 1916 W. Francis.

Kent pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Idaho in July for a Jan. 12, 2010, robbery at Washington Trust Bank, 218 Lakeside Ave.

Video and surveillance photos released after the robbery led several of Kent's acquaintances to tip the FBI to his identity. Agents searched Kent's Spokane home and found clothes matching those worn by the robber, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.
  

Thompson juror alleges ‘police coverup’

The forewoman of the jury that convicted Spokane Police Officer Karl F. Thompson Jr. said none of the jurors brought information to deliberations that they picked up from media reports, as alleged by defense attorneys seeking a new trial.

Diane Riley, 57, of Ellensburg, contacted The Spokesman-Review Monday to voice her concerns about allegations that jurors may have been exposed to television reports indicating Otto Zehm was mentally ill.

“I was presiding over this group of people. I could tell that none of them were being fed information from the outside,” she said.

Read the rest of Tom Clouse's story here.

Mom accused of fracturing baby’s skull

A woman accused of fracturing her baby's skull at a Spokane bus station last summer is wanted on a felony warrant.

Crime Stoppers is offering a reward for tips that lead to the arrest of Whitney A. Manges, 25, who a witness said was “swaying and staggering” when she picked her 7-month-old son after dropping him while trying to board a bus on Aug. 9.

The boy cried and appeared lethargic after the incident at the STA station in the 1300 block of East Sprague Avenue outside the Union Gospel Mission women's shelter. Police contacted Manges as she sat on a bench at the STA Plaza, where she said she was on Xanax and another drug she couldn't identify, according to court documents.

Police said the baby was filthy but in good physical health, but Manges was not capable of properly caring for him so he was taken by Child Protective Services. Police were called to Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center two days later after the boy's foster parents noticed a lump on his head that an emergency room doctor said was a skull fracture.

Detectives seized Manges' medical records, and prosecutors charged her last months with assault of a child in the third-degree and reckless endangerment, both felonies. The last charge alleges she was intoxicated or under the influence of a controlled substance when the assault occurred.

A $15,000 warrant was issued for Manges' arrest on Nov. 7. Anyone with information on her location is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS or submit tips online.

Craigslist ad leads to gunpoint robbery

A woman who advertised a diamond ring for sale online was robbed at gunpoint by a man who threatened to kill her, authorities say.

Tyler J. Bowers, 19, is accused of robbing the woman when she arrived at a home in the 13400 block of South Clearlake in Medical Lake on Thursday with her son and 18-month-old daughter.

The woman intended to sell a ring aftrer Bowers called to inquire about an advertisement on Craigslist. She said bowers pointed a handgun at her about two feet from her face and ran away with the ring. She feared Bowers would shoot her, her husband and the child, but no one was injured.

Spokane County sheriff's Deputy Ray Miller responded to the home and said in court documents that Bowers admitted to using a gun to rob the couple. Miller talked to the teen's mother, who owns the home and gave him permission to search it. Miller found a plastic airsoft gun in a book bag in Bower's room and recovered the diamond ring on a dresser.

Bowers remains in jail after appearing in Superior Court Monday on a first-degree robbery charge.

Chief: ‘Silent majority needs to stand up’

Spokane police Officer Karl Thompson outside the federal courthouse in Yakima on Nov. 2 with (from left) his lawyer, Carl Oreskvocih, and Spokane Police Guild Vice President John Gately. (SRPhoto/Chris Anderson)

Spokane police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick suggested Monday that no cultural changes will occur within SPD until frontline officers change the leadership of the guild. 

As president, Ernie Wuthrich keeps two vice presidents, Officer John Gately, who attended every day of Karl Thompson’s trial and was by his side outside of trial, and Tim Moses, who required a letter of immunity from the U.S. Department of Justice before he would testify about his previous grand jury testimony incriminating Thompson.

When Moses (pictured right) did testify, he he blamed the FBI for intimidating him into testifying under oath to a grand jury that Thompson had struck Otto Zehm in the head with a baton.

“If you want true culture change, you look to your leaders and see who is being elected,” Kirkpatrick said. “That will be your weather vane of the cultural mindset. The silent majority needs to stand up and take back the voice and leadership of who they really are.”

But in an e-mail to The Spokesman-Review, Moses said he recalls Kirkpatrick supporting his promotion.

If “you really want to find someone to point the finger at for a lack of direction … deficiency of faith in the police … or issues with public trust … remember, we were under Kirkpatrick's administration and guidance the past 5 years,” he wrote in part. “Put the blame where it belongs.”

Read much more about the expected federal investigation n into the Spokane Police Department here.

Tips sought on alleged child molester

Crime Stoppers is offering a reward for tips that lead to the arrest of a man charged with first-degree child molestation.

Carlos P. Unup, 46, is accused of inappropriately touching a six-year-old girl while riding in a car with her parents near East Bigleow Gulch Road and North Havana Street on Aug. 21.

A $25,000 warrant for his arrest was issued Oct. 21, the same day prosecutors charged him.

Anyone with information on Unup's location is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS or submit tips online.

Tipsters do not have to leave their name to collect a reward but should leave a code name or number.

Man, 21, shot to death by Colville police

A 21-year-old man shot to death by a Colville police officer late Saturday was raised by a computer analyst and an elementary school teacher in a small town near Bakersfield, Calif., before embracing what his father described as a “transient” lifestyle.

 Few details about the shooting death of Sean Joseph Bergstrasser have been released, including what prompted the officer to open fire.

Bergstrasser’s father, Mark Bergstrasser, a computer systems analyst who lives with his wife, a fifth-grade teacher, in Wasco, Calif., said he never knew their son to own a firearm.

“Sean has never owned a firearm,” he said. “Where the handgun actually came from is a question I have. I don’t know.”

Read my full story here.

Hockey game pits SPD against SCSO

Local law enforcement will take to the ice on Saturday to raise money in honor of fallen and injured officers.

Doors open at 4 p.m. at the Spokane Arena for the 5 p.m. match between the Spokane Police Department and the Spokane County Sheriff's Office.

Proceeds benefit the Behind the Badge Foundation, which honors “the sacrifices of officers who have suffered a line of duty death or catastrophic injury,” according to a news release.

Donations will be accepted during the Chiefs game.

The Chiefs will be holding a silent auction to raise money for foundation, also,

Admittance to the game is free with a ticket to the Chiefs game against the Regina, B.C., Pats at 7:05 p.m.

To purchase tickets please call (509) 535-Puck or (509) 328-0450 and mention you are attending both events.

Jury convicts Spokane man of rape

A Spokane County jury has convicted a man linked to a rape after his DNA was collected for a property crime conviction.

Louis Victor Kuster, 23, is awaiting sentencing after being convicted of second-degree rape Thursday after a three-day trial in Superior Court.

Kuster has been in jail since his arrest in January, more than a year after he raped a 16-year-old at Patrick Byrne Park, 125 E. Walton Ave. Police circulated a sketch of the attacker in the weeks after the Jan. 1, 2010 attack.

Kuster told jurors the oral sex was consensual.

Juror Jeff Bruno, a 48-year-old small business owner, said Kuster's gave a conflicting statement to police at the time of his arrest that he'd never met the girl. That showed he couldn't be trusted, Bruno said.

“If I walked through a park and happened to have sex with a woman I'm going to remember that for a long time. That's not something I would casually just forget,” Bruno said.

Bruno said jurors were split when they began deliberations - seven guilty and five not guilty. Deliberations lasted about five or six hours, Bruno said.

Bruno said Kuster and the victim testified. He said Kuster became angry on the stand and described him as a “monster.” The girl had a diffficult time testifying, he said. She “was just terrified of this guy on the stand,” Bruno said. “She wouldn't even look at him.”

Bruno learned after the verdict that Kuster underwent sex offender treatment as a teenager after he was accused of sexually harassing and inappropriately touching four girls while a middle school student in Stevens County.

Bruno said jurors were told only of Kuster's conviction for second-degree possession of stolen property, which led to his DNA being collected in August 2010.

Steve Tucker mum on Otto Zehm case

Ten days after a jury convicted Officer Karl F. Thompson Jr. in federal court, Spokane County Prosecutor Steve Tucker has given no indication that he will move forward in state court with an investigation into Thompson or other officers involved in the 2006 confrontation with Otto Zehm.

Tucker avoided questions for more than a week. His only response to multiple calls and office visits was an email on Friday asking about the “specific case” reporters were inquiring about. He then didn’t respond by 5 p.m. Friday to a list of emailed questions.

Read the rest of Tom Clouse's story here.

Police Chief Kirkpatrick to leave Jan. 2

Spokane Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick confirmed Friday that she will not wait for a new chief to be hired and will leave at the first of the year.

Kirkpatrick has said as late as Nov. 4 that she would stay through the first few months of the year as the city searched for a new chief.

But on Nov. 6, she sent a letter to Mayor Mary Verner announcing a departure date of Jan. 2.

“My family’s a priority and I’m at a great age for new things,” Kirkpatrick, 52, said in an interview Friday.

Read the rest of my story here.

Man shot by police sues Spokane Valley

A man acquitted of assaulting two police officers who shot him in October 2009 is suing the city of Spokane Valley.

David J. Glidden, 29, was paralyzed by the shooting and is seeking compensation for millions of dollars in medical expenses he’s accrued and expects to accrue. He was holding a pellet gun when shot by officers at his Spokane Valley home Oct. 30, 2009.

Read the reset of my story here.

Past coverage:

Feb. 17: Man shot by deputies acquitted of assault

Nov. 9, 2009: Man shot by police: 'It will be on the news'

Nov. 4, 2009: Man shot by police had pellet gun

Elderly theft suspect arrested again

A man accused of draining a 106-year-old woman's retirement savings was arrested in Spokane after missing a court appearance.

John H. “Herb” Friedlund, 78, failed to appear for an arraignment on a witness tampering charge last month in Spokane County Superiro Court. He was arrested Wednesday on a $10,000 warrant and appeared in court Thursday where Judge Jerome Leveque allowed him to be released from jail on his own recognizance.

Friedlund faces theft charges in Stevens County for allegedly stealing money from Frances T. Swan, whom he was caring for in Kettle Falls.

Deputies found Swan covered in filth and begging for food in May after Friedlund asked them to retrieve his medicine from the home before he was taken to jail in an animal cruelty investigation.

Friedlund left jail in June on $25,000 bond by Carl “Rich” Jessen, an agent with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Prosecutors allege Friedlund spent Swan's money on vehicles, a horse trailer and a man’s surgery in Texas.

Friedlund is accused of calling that man, Steven M. Smith, in August asking him to tell investigators that Swan authorized previous money transfers from Friedlund to Smith totaling about $225,000. Authorities believe the calls took place in Spokane County.

Past coverage:

Aug. 4: Caretaker's alleged spending outlined

Aug. 2: Elder neglect suspect arrested for felony theft

Aug. 2: Theft charges likely in 106-year-old's case

June 21: Man held after police find famished woman

2 theft investigations lead to 1 house

A Spokane County man caught with stolen vehicles at his South Hill-area home was visited by police again two days later after detectives heard of a stolen jewelry box matching a box spotted during their first search.

Randall T. Smeltzer, 32, is in jail on possession of a stolen motor vehicle, stolen property and methamphetamine charges.

Detectives recovered a stolen Mazda and a stolen Chevy Trailblazer at his home in the 3600 block of East Thurston on Tuesday, according to the Spokane County Sheriff's Office.

Authorities say the Mazda had been stolen in Medical Lake; Smeltzer had removed its side windows and installed them in his own Mazda. The Chevy was stolen Monday night from a Liberty Lake home and already had different licenses plates mounted on it. Items belonging to its owner were found in Smeltzer's bedroom.

Investigators reviewing burglary reports the next day noted a report listing a unique jewelry box taken in a burglary on South Fancher Road. They recognized the box as one they'd seen in Smeltzer's room, and Detective Dean Meyer obtained a second search warrant for the home on Thursday.

“The jewelry box was recovered, as was jewelry, checkbooks and identification belonging to other victims,” Sgt. Dave Reagan said in a news release. “Investigators also found evidence linking Smeltzer to two other stolen vehicles.”

Man accused of leading organized crime

An alleged counterfeit check and identity theft ring has led to a leading organized crime charge against a 30-year-old Spokane man.

Kyle R. Aiken is one of 14 people facing charges in the case, which involved Aiken creating counterfeit checks using stolen bank account and personal identification information stolen during car prowlings by co-conspirators in Spokane County. The checks were cashed at stores throughout the county in August and early September, according to court documents.

Investigators believe Aiken, who lives in the 4000 block of North Cannon Street, directed at least six people to engage in forgery, theft and identify theft, which led prosecutors to charge him with lading organized crime.

The charge can carry a sentence of about 10 years.

Also facing charges are Donnelle C. Velasquez, 41, and her juvenile son; Alicia M. Rumburg, 22; Samuel J. Aldrich, 28; Alexander R. Jarman, 19; Sarah E. Perrenaud, 24; Stephanie R. Kutulas, 32; Charles W.B. Walrath, 26; Ronda M. Mason, 28; Tyler C. Berens, 19; Chelsea R. Barnes, 23; Kirk P. Robinson, 21; and Kristina M. Centorbi, 23.

Two search warrants were executed during the investigation, one by the Spokane Police Department’s Targeted Crimes Unit and Patrol Anti-Crime Team (PACT), and one conducted by the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office Financial Crimes Task Force.
  

Judge accepts MLK bomb plea deal

A federal judge has accepted the guilty plea of Kevin W. Harpham for leaving a bomb along the planned route of the Martin Luther King Jr. Unity March last January in downtown Spokane.

In accepting the plea, U.S. District Court Judge Justin Quackenbush will now determine at Nov. 30 sentencing how much time the 37-year-old Colville area resident will serve in prison. He faces a range of about 27 to 32 years.

Harpham pleaded guilty in September to attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction and attempting to injure people in a hate crime.

Read the rest of Tom Clouse's story here.

In preperation for Harpham's sentencing, the Spokane Crime Victim Service Center is seeking public input for a description of the crime’s impact on the community, which will be read by Quackenbush. Read more here.

Past coverage:

March 13: Hate site postings reveal Harpham's views

Tips sought on CdA flower pot vandals

 A vandal caught on tape in Coeur d'Alene is now the target of a Crime Stoppers reward.

Surveillance video shows the man grab flowers in large pots in front of a home decor store at 513 E. Sherman Ave., then tug on the flowers until the pots fall over and shatter.

The vandal's female companion is seen laughing at the damages.

Anyone with information on their identities is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS or submit tips online.

Tipsters can remain anonymous.

Edgar Steele: I didn’t defecate myself

Before he was sentenced to 50 years in prison Wednesday, Edgar Steele told the court he wanted his lawyer at trial to show jurors the underwear he was wearing when he was arrested to dispute FBI claims that he may have defecated himself. 

Steele said Robert McAllister, who has since been disbarred for unrelated reasons, refused, and Steele criticized the move as stifling a chance to show jurors at his murder-for-hire trial last spring that lead investigator and FBI agent Mike Sotka “was a liar.”

Under questioning from prosecutors during the trial in Boise last spring, Sotka said Steele stood up and an “odor of fecal matter” filled the air when FBI agents told him they knew of the murder plot.

The agents “feared that Mr. Steele had defecated himself,” Sotka said, though he never said they verified Steele did so. The FBI had told Steele his wife and mother-in-law had been killed in a ruse to observe his reaction before his arrest in June 2010.

On Wednesday, Steele said he began to suspect something was not right when the agents told him his mother-in-law had been shot to death.

“I did smell something, and it wasn't the odor of defecation - one of many lies (FBI agent Mike) Sotka told to the jury,” Steele said. “I have the underwear I was wearing that day…hasn't been washed…I couldn't get McAllister to bring them in to show Sotka was a liar.”

Steele also took issue with Assistant U.S. Attorney Traci Whelan telling the court he had liposuction after his heart surgery. Whelan said undergoing the procedure shows Steele wasn't bed-ridden and incapable after the surgery. Steele said the procedure wasn't “frivolous” and was done because he was self conscious about his breast size.

The FBI and U.S. Attorney's Office disputes Steele's claims of lies and corruption.

“Mr Steele was targeted for investigation, convicted at trial and sentenced to prison ebcause of his own criminal conduct, and for no other reason,” according to a statement by the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Detectives seize 8 lbs of pot, 1,000 plants

Eight pounds of marijuana and more than a 1,000 plants were seized from a home in Spokane County last week.

Jerad J. Kynaston, (pictured) Corey E. Mobley, Brice C. Davis, Jayde D. Evans and Peter M. Magana were arrested during the search Nov. 2 at 11900 N. Judkins Road.

In addition to drug charges, Kynaston faces a felon in possession of a firearm charge for a loaded Glock pistol found at the home. Kynaston has previous felony marijuana convictions that prohibit him from possessing firearms.

Spokane County sheriff's detectives found 695 marijuana plants and 500 plants that had recently been harvested. Each plant is generally capable of yielding one-half to one-pound of marijuana, leading investigators to value the seized pot and plants between $1.2 million and $2.4 million.

“Numerous medical marijuana provider forms were located at the residence,” Sgt. Dave Reagan said in a new release. “One of the patients had previously contacted the Sheriff's Office and complained that he had contracted with an individual associated with the Judkins Road address for his medical marijuana supply, but that this individual was selling the marijuana to other people rather than supplying the patient. The Washington state medical marijuana law has recently been amended to allow up to ten individuals to form a co-op and grow up to 45 marijuana plants. ”

Detectives also seized a 2006 Ford F250 pick-up, several thousand dollars worth of new furniture, 35 pairs of new Nike shoes and three new, large flat-screen TV's as well as other home entertainment items from the residence.

The investigation is continuing and further charges are expected, Reagan said.

Kynaston, 23, was convicted in Spokane County in 2009 for being in possession of five pounds of marijuana. He also was convicted in Sherman County, Oregon in 2010 for being in possession of more than 10 pounds of marijuana.

Tire slashing halts police pursuit training

A vandal slashed tires on six sheriff's patrol cars used for pursuit training, officials said today.

Sheriff's employees arrived at the Spokane County Raceway Park Tuesday to find all 24 tires slashed and flat. The vandal also stole six mounted tires meant to cover flats incur during training.

“A sheriff’s fleet services spokesman estimated the cost to replace the 30 tires at about $3,000, but that loss doesn’t include the time the 20 or so students lost when they had to end their training day five hours early,” Sgt. Dave Reagan said in a news release.

The cars were at the raceway so that students could practice pursuit immobilization techniques,, pursuits, spike strip placement and backing maneuvers.

Crime Stoppers is offering a reward for tips that solve the crime. Anyone with information is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or submit tips online.

Porn shop robbery suspect still jailed

A Spokane man accused of tying up an porn shop employee during a robbery early Tuesday remains jailed on $75,000 bond.

James Allen Turnipseed, 32, appeared in Superior Court Tuesday afternoon on charges of unlawful imprisonment and first-degree robbery.

Turnipseed was stopped on a bicycle just after the 2 a.m. robbery at Hollywood Erotic Boutique, 3813 N. Division St. Police say he matched a description of the robber as “chubby” and “wearing blue parachute pants,” according to court documents.

The employee identified Turnipseed as one of two men who tied her up and stolen cash and merchandise from the store, including sex toys, smoking pipes and lingerie.

Police say Turnipseed had a phone in his pocket that matched the description of a phone stolen from the store, as well as smoking pipes with price tags still affixed. Turnipseed also had two bags with him, which were partially open and had sex toys inside, police said.

A second suspect has not been identified.

Turnipseed, a 2009 Crime Stoppers graduate, has previous convictions for assault, making false statements, robbery and probation violations.

Phones probed in nail salon drug case

Spokane police are reviewing cell phone records to build a case against a couple suspected of selling crack cocaine out of a nail salon.

Paul Lamar Rios, 29, and Krista L. Isaacs, 34, were arrested during a SWAT team raid at 8210 N. Lucia Court on Oct. 21.

Isaac's nail salon, Luscious Nails and Beyond, 1721 Northwest Boulevard, was searched the same morning. Police seized about four ounces of crack cocaine from a safe in the Lucia Court home.

Police were authorized the search the nail shop and the home after a confidential informant used a “unwitting individual” to buy crack cocaine from Paul Rios thrice in September and once from Isaacs at the nail shop on Oct. 14.

“The unwitting source told the informant that Rios was cautious and only deals with five other people,” according to court documents.

Police filed a search warrant Tuesday that authorized them to search Rios and Isaacs' cell phone records for phone logs, photos and text messages related to crack cocaine sales in Spokane.

Rios and Isaacs are out of jail on $5,000 bond each. Prosecutors have not filed charges.

Judge denies Steele’s new-trial motion

Get Adobe Flash player

A federal judge has denied Edgar Steele's motion for a new trial.

U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill denied the motion in an order filed today. Read his 18-page ruling here.

Steele, 65, is to be sentenced Wednesday by Winmill in Coeur d'Alene. Prosceutors are seeking 50 years in prison.

A jury in Boise convicted him of four felonies May 5 for paying his handyman, Larry Fairfax, in silver to kill his wife and mother-in-law with a car bomb so he could spend time with a young Ukrainian woman he met online.

Steele's been in jail since his arrest in June 2010. Fairfax is serving 27 months for placing a pipe bomb under Cyndi Steele's car and not telling authorites.

 “To plan the murder of an innocent spouse is unthinkably heartless,” federal prosecutors Marc Haws and Traci Whelan wrote in a sentencing recommendation in U.S. District Court. “To manipulate a financially desperate neighbor to commit the murder with a violent car bomb explosion is depraved.”

Prosecutors compared Steele, a former lawyer to Aryan Nations founder Richard Butler and the self-described “attorney for the damned,” to  Raskolnikov, the main character in Fyodor Dostoyevski’s novel “Crime and Punishment.”

“In his plotting, Edgar Steele seems modeled on Raskolnikov: too far above the law, and too smart to get caught,” prosecutors wrote.

Read more from the sentencing recommendation here.

Steele is to be sentenced at 9 a.m. Check spokesman.com for updates, and follow me on Twitter.

K-9, police nab 2 of 3 burglary suspects

Two juvenile burglary suspects were arrested after a break-in at a North Freya Street gas station early today. 

Spokane police Officer Deanna Storch arrived at the Exxon Gas Station, 502 N. Freya St., about 12:57 a.m. to see one suspect outside a broken window with two more climbing out.

The three ran, and Officers David Stone and Michael Schneider caught one running northbound, according to a news release by Sgt. Kevin King.

Officer Paul Gorman and his K-9, Maximus tracked a second suspect about three blocks away along the east side of the Freya Street Bridge.

The 15- and 16-year-old suspects were booked into juvenile detention for second-degree burglary. The third suspect was not located.

He's described as a white or Hispanic male, about 5-foot-7 “with a very thing build.” He was wearing a white t-shirt and yellow shorts.

Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Check at (509) 456-2233.

Man gets 184 years after rejecting plea

A man sentenced to 184 1/2 years in prison for a shooting that injured one person declined a plea deal that would have given him 10 to 12 years in prison.

Gregory Sharkey, Jr., 27, had three attorneys over the course of nearly two years before Spokane County Superior Court Judge Greg Sypolt convicted him of 10 counts of first-degree assault, said his public defender, Terence Ryan.

State law requires that sentences for violent felonies be served consecutively. The first count of first-degree assault carried a standard range of 24 to 29 years, including enhancements because he used a firearm and because a co-defendant used a firearm. The remaining nine counts each brought a standard range of about 17 to 20 years.

The result was an eye-opening sentence of 2,215 months - the low end of the standard range. Imposed by Sypolt late last month, Sharkey's sentence is an example of what can happen under strong gun sentencing laws enacted by the Washington state Legislature.

“We made him an offer of much less than that and he chose to go to trial,” said Spokane County Deputy Prosecutor Mark Cipolla, who handled the case. “I don't have any direction at sentencing once somebody goes to trial.”

Sharkey chose to take his case to a bench trial instead of a jury trial, Ryan said.

“I told him it might be wiser to go in front of a jury,” Ryan said. “That's 12 people who have to make a decision, with a judge it's just one person.”

Sharkey declined an interview Monday at the Spokane County Jail, where is awaiting transport to prison after his sentencing late last month. Ryan said Sharkey didn't seem surprised by the sentence.

“He was surprised that the judge found him guilty, but he wasn't surprised at the length of the sentence,” Ryan said. “He knew all abut the sentencing, the possible worst-case scenario.”

Sharkey was arrested in December 2009 after a two-day crime spree in which shots were fired at a Spokane police officer and at a group of young people outside a home. Sharkey fired indiscriminately into the group while co-defendant Tony E. Dawson shot one person.

Later, after passing by the shooting scene, Dawson opened fire on a Spokane police patrol car; no one was injured.

Sharkey “supplied both guns,” Cipolla said last week.

“The legislature, which I agree with, is tough on people using multiple guns in violent crimes,” Cipolla continued. “Ten people could have ended up dead here.”

Dawson is serving about 21 years for the crimes. Margaret Shults, who was in the stolen SUV when Dawson fired shots, is serving 77 months.

Both did what Sharkey did not: accept a plea deal.

Sypolt's decision to convict him of 10 violent felonies left himself no choice at sentencing.

“It's apparently what the Legislature wanted when they passed what's called 'hard time for armed crime,'” Ryan said.

Sharkey's convictions have already been appealed.

Ryan filed a motion for arrest of judgment after the verdict, saying it was based on the testimony of Shults, who has a lengthy criminal history and omitted any mention of the defendants when first interviewed by detectives. The motion was denied.

Sharkey had a previous felony conviction for first-degree robbery. He was shot while committing that crime in February 2006.

Cipolla said he's “had a couple” of 100-plus-year sentences while a deputy prosecutor, including Anthony L. Wright, who's serving 134 years for a drive-by shooting that killed a 3-year-old girl in 2001. “Few and far between, but they're there.”

“That's the way it goes sometimes, I guess,” Cipolla said. “Not much I can say about it.”

What did Thompson jurors see on TV?

An investigator with the U.S. Attorney's Office contacted Northwest Cable News last week to find out what five jurors could have seen if they were exposed to coverage of the Karl Thompson-Otto Zehm trial during breakfast at their Yakima hotel.

The news channel says the tickers than ran the morning of Nov. 2 read: “A federal grand jury in Yakima will continue deliberations Wednesday in the trial of a Spokane police officer. Officer Karl Thompson is accused of using excessive force against a suspect who died. If convicted of violating civil rights and lying to investigators, Thompson could be sentenced to a maximum of 20 years in prison,” according to court documents filed today.

Thompson's lawyers cited the possible exposure to news coverage as a reason for a new trial. They haven't filed a motion for a new trial yet, but they've asked U.S. District Judge Fred Van Sickle to allow jurors to be questioned regarding the topic. A hearing on that request is set for tomorrow at 8:30 a.m. Get minute-by-minute updates from court here.

Today in court, Carl Oreskovich said the “cumulative” nature of testimony about Zehm's habits as a Zip Trip customer and the paycheck in his pocket could be another fact in the request for a new trial.

Meanwhile, Thompson is to be released from the Bonner County Jail, where he spent the weekend. Read more here.

Judge in Zehm warns against outbursts

On the heels of a Spokane police officer yelling “PRESENT ARMS” as law enforcement Karl Thompson left court with U.S. Marshals Friday, a federal judge warned that such outbursts won't be tolerated.

“At best, such conduct will cause exclusion from the courtroom, not to return. At worst, we'll be talking about contempt of court,” said U.S. District Judge Fred Van Sickle before hearing a motion by Thompson's lawyer to get him out of jail pending sentencing.

Van Sickle is deciding now whether to release Thompson from custody. Thompson, now a convicted felon, spent the weekend at the Bonner County Jail and is wearing a bright yellow jumpsuit in court. He's entered and exited in handcuffs. Track the hearing here. A decision is expected shortly.

Van Sickle said he knows “there's a lot of hard feelings and strong feelings about (the Thompson case) way or the other” but emphasized d that such demonstration are not allowed in U.S. District Court.

Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick and Spokane Mayor Mary Verner apologized for the salute on Friday. Later that day, Major Craig Meidl, who attended Friday's hearing, said on the “We Support Karl Thompson” Facebook page that the officer who yelled “Present arms” “was mortified to learn that members of the Zehm family were still in the courtroom.”

 “The show of respect was not about the incident involving Mr Zehm. The show of respect was for the officer that we all knew and were friends with. It was for the officer that was highly respected and looked up to by so many officers,” Meidl wrote. “The officers on our department are hurting. We hear all the bad things being said about us and each one causes a little more bleeding. We are trying to heal. We want to heal. We want to do the best we can for our community because it’s the right thing to do. We would never do anything intentionally to hurt this community or members of this community and I am saddened that there are people that feel that way. ”

Read Meidl's full post here and here.

Jeffry Finer, lawyer for Zehm's family, said on Friday that he is saddened to think that the officers who cried for Thompson Friday likely have not cried for Zehm.

Past coverage:

Nov. 4: Thompson supporters express outrage

Court OK’d release of now-wanted man

A robbery and kidnapping suspect released from jail on his own recognizance under the recommendation of prosecutors has a reward for tips on his capture after missing a court hearing.

Kenneth J. Kheel, 21, is wanted on a no-bail warrant after he didn't show up for a pre-trial hearing Oct. 16. Kheel Jarred T. Many, 22; and Codi R. Allen, 23; are accused robbing two men at gunpoint after the victims arranged to buy a ring from Many at 1124 W. Nora Ave. on June 17.

A Spokane police SWAT team search ion July that included tear gas was unsuccessful, and Kheel was arrested during a traffic stop days later.

Many and Allen remain in jail awaiting trial on robbery and kidnapping charges. According to court documents, Kheel told police he was hit in the head during the attack and was “in fact, trying to stop the robbery” by Many and Allen, according to court documents.

Prosecutors recommended Judge Michael Price allow Kheel to leave jail on his own recognizance in September, and Price agreed.

“The state believes that Mr. Kheel's case is all but resolved, and sees no reason to hold Mr. Kheel for these charges any longer,” according to an order filed Sept. 2.

Now Kheel, 5-foot-6 and 130 pounds, is a Crime Stoppers fugitive. Anyone with information on his location is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or submit tips online.

Kheel was released from prison in September 2010 after being sentenced in June 2009 to two years in prison with credit for 143 days served for second-degree assault. He had been arrested in January 2009 after then off-duty police Sgt. Brad Thoma suffered a minor stab wound during a confrontation with Kheel in downtown Spokane.

Driver jailed for crash that killed friend

A 20-year-old Spokane woman has been sentenced to a year in jail for a fatal 2010 crash  that killed a Lewis and Clark High graduate and Eastern Washington University student.

Brooke A. Reese was booked into Spokane County Jail Thursday. She's eligible to serve about 2/3s of her sentence if credited for good behavior. She's to be on probation for a year after her release.

Reese was charged in Spokane County Superior Court with vehicular homicide for a crash that killed Jacoby N. Bryant, 19, (pictured) on Feb. 14, 2010. She pleaded guilty to the felony last week and was sentenced by Judge Linda Tompkins.

A second suspect, Taylor D. Marean, is scheduled for trial on Jan. 23.

Reese and Marean were said to be racing when their cars collided on southbound Hatch Road near 54th Avenue.

Bryant was in the passenger seat of Reese’s 1999 Pontiac Grand Am (pictured), which struck a tree after colliding with Marean’s 2005 BMW, according to the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office.

Reese reportedly admitted to drinking four shots of Vodka at a party near East 25th Avenue and South Grand Boulevard before the deadly crash.

She cried at the hospital to detectives, saying “she was responsible for her friend’s death and had to live with it the rest of her life,” according to court documents.

According to court records, Reese’s blood-alcohol level was .06 and Marean’s was .12; detectives say they found methamphetamine in Reese's purse.

Past coverage:

May 28, 2010: Documents give new details on deadly crash

April 27, 2010: Charges in deadly crash on hold for school

April 5, 2010: Charges recommended in crash that killed teen

Fugitive arrested after 8-hour standoff

Kootenai County sheriff's deputies and Coeur d'Alene police spent more than eight hours Sunday resolving a standoff with a man who they say was threatening to kill himself in his mother's home.

Law enforcement responded about 5:30 a.m. Sunday to a call at 317 S. Ross Point Road near Post Falls, after learning that Matthew W. Couture, 44, had barricaded himself in his mother's basement with a butcher's knife.

Following an argument with his mother, Couture reportedly threatened to use the knife on himself. Officers negotiated for about six hours with Couture before he agreed to surrender, said Sgt. Matt Street of the Kootenai County Sheriff's Department.

Couture has a warrant issued in California for a felony probation violation related to a domestic-violence charge, according to a news release.

No injuries occurred during the standoff, Street said.

Jury awards police detective $722k

A jury on Friday awarded more than $700,000 to a Spokane police detective they say was wrongly fired and retaliated against by Chief Anne Kirkpatrick.

The amount includes $250,000 in punitive damages against Kirkpatrick, who quickly left Superior Court Judge Kathleen O’Connor’s courtroom with Assistant City Attorney Ellen O’Hara after the verdict was read. Both declined comment.

Read the rest of my story here.

Attorney Bob Dunn gave a closing argument Thrusday so critical of Kirkpatrick that her attorney aplogized to her. Read more here.

Alternate juror shocked by Zehm verdict?

This afternoon, Karl Thompson's lawyer, Carl Oreskovich, filed an emergency motion to get Thompson out of jail. He also filed a motion asking that he be allowed to contact jurors because of what he said was “an unsolicited email received by defense counsel from one of the alternate jurors.”

“The alternate juror’s email expressed “shock” at the verdict and stated that (the alternate juror) did not have the same opinion regarding the verdict,” Oreskovich wrote. Oreskovich is asking that he be able to ask jurors about potential infuences on their verdict.

He included a declaration by his paralegal, Jodi Dineen, stating she'd seen at least two jurors exposed to a ticker on Northwest Cable News TV that mentioned of the “beating death of a mentally ill janitor” on Nov. 1 and Nov. 2 during breakfast at the hotel in Yakima. (Why she didn't tell the court at the time is unclear.)

Oreskovich also cited problems in the testimony of a Zip Trip employee who told jurors Zehm regularly bought 2-liter bottles of soda as a reason his to-be-filed motion for a new trial is likely to succeed.

Oreskovich also said Thompson's conviction is so egregious he shouldn't be incarcerated.

“This Court, having presided over every pretrial hearing and throughout the course of trial, knows that Karl Thompson’s conviction is an aberration,” he wrote. “There is absolutely no proof (as none was offered at trial) of any violent behavior in Karl Thompson’s past. This factor weighs heavily in favor of releasing Karl Thompson pending sentencing and defense counsel asks the Court to give this factor proper consideration.”

A hearing is set for Monday before U.S. Judge Fred Van Sickle.

Thompson supporters express outrage

Snickers candy bars, flowers and 2-liter bottles of Pepsi were left curbside today in front of the Zip Trip on Division at Augusta, where Otto Zehm lost consciousness during a March 2006 confrontation wth Spokane police officers, He died two days later. (SRPhoto/Dan Pelle)

The Spokane Police Department rank-and-file is reeling amidst the conviction and subsequent jailing of Officer Karl Thompson. 

Dozens of officers attended a standing-room only hearing at the federal courthouse today in Spokane, where Thompson was taken into custody after U.S. Magistrate James Hutton ordered his immediate detention. 

As Thompson, now a convicted felon, walked unhandcuffed out of the courtroom with U.S. Marshals, a supporter yelled “PRESENT ARMS!” and officers saluted. Several supporters sobbed. None wished to speak to media. Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick and Mayor Mary Verner later apologized for the outburst.

Jeffry Finer, attorney for Zehm's family, called the response “really unusual and very sad.”

“I am shocked the the willingness to ignore the fact that 12 jurors from another community found that what Officer Thompson did was a criminal act,” Finer said.

This afternoon, Thompson's lawyer, Carl Oreskovich, filed an emergency motion to get Thompson out of jail.

Administrators of the “We Support Karl Thompson” Facebook page have been busy scrubbing critical comments from the page while expressing their support for a man who is a mentor to many in the department.

Thompson, who was drafted by his coworkers to be police chief in January 2006, worked patrol for more than three years after the fatal March 2006 confrontation with Otto Zehm. After he was indicted by a grand jury in October 2009, he was given an administrative desk job that includes working with training bulletins and worked up until his trial began. 

He's now in federal custody, but not in Spokane County, Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich confirmed. Prosecutors are said to be seeking an 8- to 10-year prison sentence.(Thompson is pictured outside his trial in Yakima earlier this month.)

Supporters of Thompson have taken to Facebook to express their outrage.

The page's creator, Spokane police Sgt. Kevin King, wrote that he was “stunned, angered and sickened by this week's events.

“I am struggling with how to go to work tonight. People are so naive about what police officers really have to encounter every day on the job,” King wrote. “The ironic part is that we put our lives at risk day in and day out so others can go about their normal lives with this naivety.”

King said he's suffered broken bones, two surgeries and scarring all over his body while a police officer.

“I’ve lost track how many times the thought ”this is it’” went through my head,” he wrote.

“Karl is a better cop and a better man than me. If this can happen to him, then it can happen to me. I’ve always felt supported by our community. I no longer feel that,” King continued. “I’ll be at work tonight with my brothers and sisters. We will support each other while we are threatened, spit upon, assaulted, and put our lives on the line- for you. My heart is with you, Karl.”

A reader emailed The Spokesman-Review to express concern that her comment saying “that a probably good cop crossed the line and became Judge, Jury and Executioner” on the page had been removed.

Supporters say the page is not intended to be a forum to debate the case, only to show Thompson support.

The page has jumped from about 500 supporters to nearly 600 in less than a day. When it had 525 fans, a critic posted a since-deleted comment that read “525 Fascists “LIKE” this! What ever.”

Past coverage:

Oct. 17: Police use '505' to support Thompson

N. Idaho couple in girl’s death still jailed

Samantha Moore, of Coeur d’Alene, talks in March 2009 about the death of her 2-year-old daughter, Karina, pictured at far left. (SRPhoto/Kathly Plonka)

Post Falls police arrested a Post Falls couple in the January 2009 death of 2-year-old Karina Janay Moore, who was fatally injured while in the couple’s foster care.

Jeremy and Amber Clark were booked into Kootenai County Jail on Thursday on charges of injury to a child, conspiracy and perjury, according to a jail official.

The case has been sealed by a judge until the Clarks’ first court appearance, according to Kootenai County Prosecuting Attorney Barry McHugh.

Read the rest of Kevin Graman's story here.

Past coverage:

March 15, 2009: Karina's mother seeking justice

Police seek DNA in pot theft shooting

Police this week obtained a DNA sample, injury photos and x-rays of a second suspect in a medical marijuana robbery that ended with the homeowner firing several shots.

Detectives believe Joseph A. Gariepy, 41, (pictured) who was arrested on unrelated charges last week, was shot in the head when Raymond Paul Bates, 49, tried to steal marijuana plants from a home at 1023 E. Gordon Ave. on Oct. 3.

Bates was arrested Oct. 3 with a gunshot wound to his head; a tipster later told police she'd removed a bullet from Gariepy's head shortly after the shooting.

Police hope to compare Gariepy's DNA to blood stains found in a brown 1976 Ford Courier truck, which matches the description of the getaway truck, found near an alley in the 4500 block of North Division Street three days after the shooting.

Gariepy was named a Crime Stoppers fugitive Oct. 18, and police noted a wound on his right ear consistent with a bullet when he was arrested on Oct. 27.

The shooter, Darcee Kapfer, did not notify police about the shooing but said in an interview with detectives that she shot the would-be thief after he grabbed a piece of wood. Kapfer reportedly told police, “I'm pretty sure I hit him. I'm a pretty good shot.”

Kapfer, who was legally allowed to possess the plants because of a state authorization card, has not been arrested. Police say a small child in the home told them “I think my mom shot a guy in the back and they are going to Canada,” according to the affidavit.

Bates remains in jail on $10,000 bond for robbery and burglary charges.

Gariepy has not yet been charged in this case. He is a repeat offender suspect with a 26-year criminal history, according to Crime Stoppers.

2 arrested in armed robbery at Safeway

A robber threatened a customer with a knife during a robbery at a grocery store in west Spokane on Tuesday.

The customer noted the license plate of the car the assailant left in, leading Spokane police detectives Neil Gallion and Tim Madsen to locate a suspect at the West Wynn Motel on Wednesday.

The Honda's owner, Charles D. Stanfield, 38, told police he met a man at the House of Charity who suggested they rob the Safeway on Northwest Boulevard with a knife, according to a probable cause affidavit.

Stanfield said he drove the man, later identified by police as Frank L. Uhyrek, 35, (pictured) to the store and watched him put a yellow and blue ski mask on. He said Frank came running across the street minutes later holding a large amount of cash as two men chased him.

“Frank told him a guy tried to box him in and he told the guy 'don't be a hero,'” according to the affidavit. Stanfield said Uhyrek got about $400 and gave him $10 for gas, as well as money for the motel room.

Stanfield and Uhyrek each were booked into the Spokane County Jail on seven charges of first-degree robbery for each clerk of customer whom allegedly was approached.

Uhyrek was arrested for robbing an 82-year-old man in a wheelchair when he was 19, according to news archives.

Elderly men accused in Ga. militia plot

Dan Roberts, left, and Frank Thomas are shown in this artist rendering as he appear in a federal courtroom in Gainesville, Ga., on Wednesday. The two and two other men are accused of planning a terror attack. (AP/Richard Miller)

By GREG BLUESTEIN and JAY REEVES, Associated Press
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — On his website, militia leader-turned-blogger Mike Vanderboegh writes about fed-up Americans responding to government violence with guns and grenades. It's an attempt to warn the government that people are armed and angry, he says, just like last year when he urged those upset with President Barack Obama's health care plan to toss bricks at Democratic Party offices.

 A few people shattered office windows then, and federal prosecutors now say his online novel about a militia making war against the U.S. government inspired a group of four retirement-age men in Georgia to plot an attack on unnamed government leaders using guns, the highly deadly toxin ricin and explosives.

Vanderboegh said he doesn't know the suspects. He ridiculed the men's plans and chuckled at the notoriety he has gained for his online rants.

“It comes with the territory,” he said in an interview from his home in a Birmingham suburb. Vanderboegh hasn't been charged with any wrongdoing.

The four suspected militia members allegedly boasted of a “bucket list” of government officials who needed to be “taken out”; talked about scattering ricin from a plane or a car speeding down a highway past major U.S. cities; and scouted IRS and ATF offices, with one man saying, “We'd have to blow the whole building like Timothy McVeigh,” a reference to the man executed for bombing a federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995.

Federal investigators said they had them under surveillance for at least seven months, infiltrating their meetings at a Waffle House, homes and other places, before finally arresting them Tuesday, just days after discovering evidence they were trying to extract ricin from castor beans.

The four gray-haired men appeared in federal court in Gainesville, Ga., Wednesday without entering a plea. Frederick Thomas, 73; Dan Roberts, 67; (pictured up top) Ray Adams, 65; and Samuel Crump, 68, (pictured left) were jailed for a bail hearing next week. They apparently had trouble hearing the judge, some of them cupping their ears.

Read the rest of the story by clicking the link below.

CdA man arrested for gunpoint robbery

A Coeur d'Alene man robbed two men at gunpoint as they were walking to a friends home late Wednesday, police say.

 Jeremiah H. Starr, 34, stole a small amount of cash from Luther Nicholas, 21, and Michael Garitone, 18, of Coeur d'Alene, as they were walking near 12th Street and Coeur d'Alene Avenue about 11 p.m., according to the Coeur d'Alene Police Department.

Garitone and Nicholas followed Starr to try to see what vehicle he would get into, but Starr charged them and fought with Garitone, who was able to wrestle the gun way from them.
 
Garitone and Nicholas said they'd never met Starr. Police found him hiding in the basement of a home in the 1100 block of Coeur d'Alene Avenue.
 
“A female at the residence claimed Starr is the father of her baby,” Sgt. Christie Wood said in a news release. “Officers also recovered an air soft BB gun from the scene that looks like an actual handgun.”

Feds hint at broader problems with SPD

Could a broader federal probe of the Spokane Police Department be under way?

Although U.S. Attorney Mike Ormsby joined other community leaders Wednesday in cautioning against drawing too many conclusions from the excessive force conviction of Spokane police Officer Karl F. Thompson Jr., indications are growing that federal authorites are troubled by what they found here.

The U.S. Justice Department, on its homepage today, openly describes the case against Thompson as involving “an extensive cover up” following the fatal March 18, 2006 confrontation. In its news release announcing Thompson's conviction on charges of using excessive force in the beating of unarmed janitor Otto Zehm and lying about it to investigators, the agency noted that, “Thompson claimed the beating was justified because he felt threatened by a plastic bottle of soda the victim was holding.”

Federal authorities confirm that at least one additional Spokane police officer - Sandy McIntyre - has received a target letter stemming from the Zehm fatality. Target letters indicate evidence is being presented to a grand jury that could lead to indictment against the recipients.

Additionally, Spokane Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick said Wednesday that potential internal investigations against other officers over their handling of the Zehm tragedy won't be considered until federal authorities have notified her that their investigations are done, which hasn't happened yet.

Racial slurs, ‘KKK’ costume lead to arrest

A woman was arrested on suspicion of a hate crime on Halloween after a black man told Spokane police he opened his front door to her yelling racial epithets while wearing a white sheet with “KKK” written on it.

Sharyl Ann Curtis, 42, also sprayed a liquid at Tyree Brown's children that she said was bleach that would make everyone white, according to a probable cause affidavit written by police in support of a malicious harassment charge against Curtis. (Curtis is pictured courtesy KHQ-TV. Check out their interview with her here.)

Police found Curtis sitting in a park near Brown's home in the 5000 block of North Lacey Street “yelling unintelligibly.”

While being treated at a hospital, Curtis allegedly told police “I will raise my son white power” and used a racial slur while raising her right arm in the air, according to the affidavit.

“My son will shoot a cop one day and I will give them the ammo,” Curtis also allegedly said, along with repeated racial epithets against the police.

Brown told police he'd heard a woman yelling racial epithets and asking if he had candy. The sheet fell off when the woman walked down the apartment stairs, and Brown recognized Curtis “from fights and other incidents in the neighborhood.”

Brown's two children were standing in the stairwell when Curtis sprayed the bottle toward them. None of the liquid hit them, but police observed a Halloween decoration that was splashed. Witnesses said Curtis ran to the nearby park and yelled that she would get a gun and shoot everyone. A neighbor confronted her and a fight ensued before police arrived, according to the affidavit.

Curtis left the Spokane County Jail after posting bond imposed during her first court appearance on Tuesday, according to online jail records. She was arrested on a malicious harassment charge last August after a neighbor told police Curtis yelled racial slurs and started a fight. No charges were filed.

Zehm’s family ‘relieved’ by guilty verdict

Get Adobe Flash player
Get Adobe Flash player

Spokane police Officer Karl Thompson leaves the William O. Douglas Federal Courthouse in Yakima today after a jury convicted him of two felonies related to the death of Otto Zehm. (SRPhoto/Christopher Anderson)

Breean Beggs, attorney for Otto Zehm's family, said Zehm's mother, Ann, is relieved 'that it's over, and, in her words, the court and legal system saw through what really happened.”

“Otto had a huge impact on the people around him, and they wanted to make sure he's not forgotten, and he is not,” Beggs said. He said Ann Zehm, whose cousin observed the trial for her, ate a piece of birthday cake for Otto on Monday, which would have been his 42nd birthday.

Zehm's family is not concerned with Karl Thompson's punishment, Beggs said.

“I spoke with Ann today and she said she needed a day to get her thoughts together of what she really thought, but all along she has not spoken as far as punishment really jut about accountability and change,” Beggs said.

“This started out, unfortunately as kind of a regular case because people with mental illness die often in Spokane when they interact with law enforcement, but it's turned into…because he was innocent and there was a video…a symbol for what could be changed and what could be better,” Beggs said.

Beggs said Zehm “was just an upstanding person” who was not as vulnerable to the typical character attacks police use to justify “these types of deaths.”

“We continue to call to the city and the department to repudiate any type of policy that would result in this type of death, and when they do so the community can heal.”

Beggs said he expects negotiations in the civil suit to move forward.

He said he was not surprised jurors convicted Thompson.

“I woke up this morning and i had a sense that this was going to happen,” Beggs said.

Read this 2006 profile of Otto Zehm: A Life On The Margins
  

Bugbee: Moses didn’t cover anything up

After a press conference in the U.S. Courthouse in Spokane, Otto Zehm's family members, Dale Zehm, center, with his wife, Sandy, thank U.S. Attorney Mike Ormsby, far left, following the jury's conviction of Spokane police Officer Karl Thompson. (SRPhoto/Colin Mulvany)

 Attorney Chris Bugbee, who represents Spokane police Officer Tim Moses, said his reaction to the jury's conviction of Karl Thompson today was “the same reaction as everybody.”

“It's shocking to see a police officer who we trust to protect us being convicted of this crime, regardless of how you see the case,” Bugbee said. “I'm sad for the community but I'm glad it has been resolved one way or the other.”

 Moses, who was granted immunity for his testimony during Thompson's trial, told jurors he was manipulated by the FBI into wrongly telling a grand jury that Thompson had said he'd hit Otto Zehm in the neck, head and upper torso with a police baton. Medics included that information in a report and said Moses told them it came from Thompson.

“I don't think Tim attempted to lie or mislead or participate in a coverup,” Bugbee said today.

Bugbee said when Moses watched video of himself at the Zip Trip that night with investigators before his grand jury testimony, “he kind of was misled and said 'well it must have been me if you guys say it was me,'” Bugbee said. “He shouldn't have. he kind of set aside his own thinking and allowed his trust in the FBI to take over.”

Bugbee said he doesn't know if the jury's verdict says anything about their view of Moses's credibility.

“I think the video alone was the powerful piece of evidence the government had,” Bugbee said. “I can understand the conviction seeing the video.”

He said jurors often don't consider witness testimony if there's an issue with credibility.

“They'll just disregard the testimony if there's other evidence they can decide the case on,” Bugbee said.

U.S. Attorney Mike Ormsby said at a press conference today that he couldn't confirm or deny if an investigation is ongoing. Though prosecutors said in trial that the Spokane Police Department “whitewashed” the Zehm investigation, Ormsby said Thompson's conviction does not reflect on other officers.

Bugbee said this afternoon that he doesn't expect Moses to face charges. He said prosecutors seemed to understand what had happened when they granted Moses immunity.

He said Moses, as a patrol officer, has little experience with interrogations and reacted as many people do afterward.

 “They feel like they were given a sense of trust that didn't exist and they were taken advantage of” Bugbee said. “Tim felt like he was taken advantage of, and in some sense, he probably was because that's the nature of an interrogation in a felony investigation.”

“I think Tim Moses was doing everything he could to be honest and truthful, and I really think he felt like he was getting taken advantage of.”

Bugbee said little is known about the government's ongoing obstruction of justice investigation, other than a target letter sent to Officer Sandy McIntyre, who was the first officer to review the surveillance video and see that Zehm never lunged at Thompson as police first alleged.

“I hope they're careful in who they decide to prusue in keeping in midn taht the community also has an interest t in putting this behind us,” Bugbee said. “The jury certainly believes that Mr. Zehm's rights were violated, and i hope that the community's satisfied with the conviction of Officer Thompson.”

Gunman hurls cash drawer at waitress

A gunman, apparently angered over the meager amount of money, hurled a cash drawer at a restaurant waitress Tuesday night in Spokane Valley.

The man entered Rancho Viejo, 14201 E. Sprague Ave., about 8:45 p.m. and waved a chromed or silver-colored pistol while demanding money.

The waitress told him she had to get keys to the cash drawer and walked part way into the kitchen, where she told the bus boy to call 911. The boy did so, and the 911 operator heard the gunman threatening the waitress, a cook and two women customers. The boy witnessed the robber tear the cash drawer out of the cabinet and throw it at the waitress after discovering it contained only coins.

The drawer hit the woman in her arms, which were crossed over her chest. The man also struck the cook int eh back of the head with the pistol, injuring him slightly.

The robber stole cash from a second drawer before running out the front door.

He's described as black, 30 years old, 5-foot-10 and 200 pounds. Anyone with information is asked to call (509) 456-2233.

Tips sought on pawn shop theft

Spokane Valley police investigating a large theft and burglary ring are trying to identify a man who pawned stolen property in the city of Spokane. 

The man pictured on surveillance video at Pawn One is believed to have concealed a laptop computer under his shirt and given it to an associate who pawned it at Double Eagle Pawn across the street. 

Two of three associates have not been located. One associate was interviewed in jail but provided only a first name, which Sgt. Dave Reagan described as “questionable.” 

“We would appreciate the public's help in identifying this man,” Reagan said in a news release. “This investigation is part of a larger Spokane Valley Police investigation into a ring of suspects involved in vehicle prowling, identity theft, burglaries and trafficking in stolen property.”

Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Check at (509) 456-2233.

Burglary spree earns $197k restitution

Four young men who burglarized homes in Spokane County last year have been ordered to pay nearly $200,000 in restitution.

George A. Denison, 21; Patrick Hayes Wellman, 20; Joseph S. Denison and Anthony Fuerte are to split the $197,200 imposed in Superior Court after pleading guilty to residential burglary, theft and gun charges.

The burglary spree occurred between between April and September, including a burglary on Sept. 7 in the 32000 block of North Rimrose Drive in which seven firearms, 85 ounces of gold coins and 1,500 ounces of silver was stolen.

George Denison was sentenced to 39 months in prison recently; Wellman, who already is headed to federal prison for drug and gun convictions, was sentenced to 43 months. Fuerte was given an alternative drug offender sentencing program. Joseph Denison is awaiting trial but was listed in court documents as being required to pay the restitution.
  

What will happen to Karl Thompson?

Federal prosecutors are expected to ask U.S. District Court Judge Fred Van Sickle to immediately detain Spokane Police Officer Karl F. Thompson Jr. if the jury convicts him of using unreasonable force.

The detention request is mandatory for all violent crimes. However, defense attorney Carl Oreskovich is expected to ask Van Sickle to keep Thompson out of jail until sentencing.

If the jury acquits Thompson, his status with Spokane Police Department remains up to administrators. Assistant Police Chief Jim Nicks already has told federal authorities he believes Thompson violated several departmental use-of-force policies but the judge ruled his conclusions inadmissable at Thompson's criminal trial. Additionally, Thompson acknowledged on the witness stand that he made errors in his statement to detectives four days after the March 18, 2006, confrontation with Otto Zehm.

Either way, though, Oreskovich said during his closing argument that at 64 now, Thompson's law enforcement career is over.

If the jury hangs, federal prosecutors must decide whether to attempt another trial after attorneys spent years preparing for this and have worked nights averaging about four hours of sleep.

3 suspects appear on murder charges

Three young people arrested for the 2007 shooting death of a 30-year-old Spokane man appear in Superior Court Tuesday on first-degree murder charges.

Derrick Gregory Martin-Armstead, 20; (left) Jaleesa D. Anderson, 22; and Marc A. Anderson, 20, (right) remain in Spokane County Jail after appearing before Judge Harold Clarke. 

Martin-Armstead was arrested last week after an informant told police he'd implicated himself in the murder of Daniel J. Burgess during conversations at the jail in May and June 2008. Burgess was shot to death on Nov. 12, 2007 while in the living room of a home at 2413 N. Dakota Ave. 

He already has felony convictions for a marijuana robbery that occurred two weeks before Burgess’ death. In that case, Martin-Armstead shot a juvenile in the buttocks with a .22 revolver. Burgess was shot in the chest with a .22 caliber bullet, according to court documents,

After Martin-Armstead was arrested Oct. 24, police say he said things that were inconsistent with what he told detectives in 2008. He said he'd previously lied to police but still insisted that another man was responsible for the shooting, according to court documents.

He said he told people he and Anderson did the shooting “only to get some static,” or respect, documents say.

Martin-Armstead's lawyer, Kevin Griffin, said he plans to request a substantial reduction in his client's $1 million bond based on the facts of the case. Jaleesa Anderson's bond is $100,000. Marc Anderson's $250,000.

Feds want Ed Steele to serve 50 years

A North Idaho attorney convicted of hiring a hitman to kill his wife should  spend 50 years in prison for his “chillingly calculated” crimes, prosecutors said in recent court filings.

Edgar J. Steele, 65, is to be sentenced Nov. 9 at 9 a.m. in U.S. District Court in Coeur d'Alene. A jury convicted him of four felonies May 5 after a two-week trial in Boise for paying his handyman, Larry Fairfax, in silver to kill his wife and mother-in-law with a car bomb so he could spend time with a young Ukrainian woman he met online.

 “To plan the murder of an innocent spouse is unthinkably heartless,” federal prosecutors Marc Haws and Traci Whelan wrote in a 13-page sentencing memorandum filed Oct. 24 in U.S. District Court. “To manipulate a financially desperate neighbor to commit the murder with a violent car bomb explosion is depraved.”

Prosecutors compared Steele, a former lawyer to Aryan Nations founder Richard Butler and the self-described “attorney for the damned,” to  Raskolnikov, the main character in Fyodor Dostoyevski's novel “Crime and Punishment.”

“In his plotting, Edgar Steele seems modeled on Raskolnikov: too far above the law, and too smart to get caught,” prosecutors wrote.

Steele's wife, Cyndi Steele, (pictured with attorney Wesley Hoyt after the verdict in May) believes he is innocent and a victim of a government conspiracy to silence him.

Fairfax secretly recorded Steele discussing the plot but was arrested after Steele was because Cyndi Steele found a pipe bomb under her car that Fairfax had affixed weeks earlier.

 Fairfax told FBI agents he didn't tell them about the bomb because it was rigged not to work and was no longer attached to the vehicle, but testimony at trial showed otherwise. Fairfax was sentenced in May to 27 months in prison.

Steele's lawyer Robert McAllister was disbarred in Colorado shortly after the trial for ethical violations unrelated to Steele's case, including misusing client money. In a motion for a new trial, McAllister has said he was ineffective as Steele's counsel during trial because he was distracted by his pending disbarment.

The motion has not yet been ruled on by the court.

Steele's new lawyer, Wesley Hoyt, did not return a phone call seeking comment today.

The minimum sentences for each of Steele's convictions - use of interstate commerce facilities in the commission of murder for hire, use of explosive materials to commit a federal felony, possession of a destructive device in relation to a crime of violence and tampering with a victim - is 40 years.

But prosecutors say such a sentence “would not adequately reflect the totality of the Defendant's actions in plotting to kill his wife, commissioning pipe bombs and obstructing or tampering with a witness into consideration; it would punish him only for the use of an explosive or destructive device.”

They are recommending U.S. District Judge Lynn Winmill sentence Steele to 600 months in prison, or 50 years.

Prosecutors said Steele had opportunities to change his mind but because “heartlessly more insistent” that Fairfax (pictured) “get this job done” by any means, including a gun shot or car crash. (Federal agents actually told Steele his wife had been run off the road in a ruse just before his arrest. They say he stood up and a fecal matter filled the air when they told him they actually knew of the murder plot.)

In the sentencing memorandum, prosecutors include several quotes from Steele's recording with Fairfax prior to his arrest. A sampling: “Go get, get this job done, Larry.” “Okay, I'm counting on it. I mean, Larry I am really up against it, it has to happen right now.” “Well, you better not get your f**king ass caught.”

Prosecutors also quoted Steele discussing the need for Fairfax to make sure Cyndi Steele dies because he doesn't want to take care of a paraplegic.

“These few, chilling words from Steele's own heart, mind and mouth establish the outrageous circumstances of his offenses,” prosecutors wrote.

Steele had no previous criminal record and was a long-time attorney handling civil cases. Steele has said his ideologies and defense of racists like Butler motivated his prosecution, but prosecutors say “nothing could be further from the truth.”

“His ideologies were no reason to bring this case, and his ideologies were no dissuasion from bringing this case,” prosecutors wrote. “Incarceration is warranted in this case, not because of what Edgar Steele's ideologies re, nor because of who Edgar Steele is, but because of what he did to commit these crimes.”

Man pleads guilty to child porn charge

A 41-year-old Hayden Lake man pleaded guilty Monday to possessing child pornography.

Charley Brigham Leighton II faces up to 10 years in prison, a fine of $250,000 and lifetime supervised release when he's sentenced Jan 30 by U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge in Coeur d'Alene.

A grand jury indicted Leighton in September after the North Idaho Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force searched his home on Aug. 26, 2010, and seized computers containing pornography images of children. Leighton told investigators he'd downloaded more than 1,000 images in about a year, according to court documents.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children said the images depicted children from Missouri, Georgia, Connecticut, Michigan, Florida, Washington, France, Germany, Brazil, Belgium, England and the Netherlands, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

“Children are our society's most precious resource,” U.S. Attorney Wendy Olson said in a prepared statement. “The federal, state and local law enforcement officers who make up the North Idaho Crimes Against Children Task Force work cooperatively and use every available tool to protect children from online predators.”  

  

Trooper passed wrong-way I-90 driver

A wrong-way driver accused of injuring two people in a freeway crash early Sunday passed a state trooper just before the 3:34 a.m. crash

Eric Edward McElmurry, 28, was allowed to leave jail on his own recognizance Monday after appearing before Spokane County Superior Court Judge Michael Price on vehicular assault charges.

Trooper Falkner was westbound on Interstate 90 east of Liberty Lake when McElmurry passed him going eastbound in the neighboring westbound lane, according to a probable cause affidavit. Falkner tried to stop him, but McElmurry's 1999 Mercury Mystic crashed head-on into a 2006 Mercury Mariner driven by Tabatha B. Dudley, 22, of Spokane Valley, police said.

Dudley was injured, along with passengers Danielle L. Cowan, 23, of Coeur d'Alene, and Zachary O'Reilly, 25, of Spokane, who both suffered broken bones; McElmurry was treated at a hospital before being booked into jail.

Troopers say McElmurry smelled of alcohol and began to vomit when he woke up in the emergency room. McElmurry said he'd drank alcohol at a party near Altamont and at a home in Cheney. He said he drank six or seven beers beginning around 9:30 p.m. and “admitted that his ability to drive was affected by his alcohol usage.”

McElmurry told troopers he believed he got onto the freeway at Freya Street and said he had no idea he was driving the wrong way.

“The defendant was upset that other people had been injured and started crying,” accoridng to the affidavit

Get blog updates by email

About this blog

Public safety news from the Inland Northwest and beyond.

Latest comments »

Read all the posts from recent conversations on Sirens & Gavels.

Search this blog
Subscribe to this blog
ADVERTISEMENT
Advertise Here