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Sirens & Gavels

Stalking suspect released from custody

The Spokane man accused of sending threatening letters to a former neighbor alluding to his belief he was the Archangel of Death has been released under supervision to seek psychiatric evaluation.

 

Brent Russ, 33, had been in custody of the U.S. marshals since his arrest in September. Federal agents investigating letters and phone messages to Russ’ southwest Spokane neighbor, a tribal police officer, discovered guns and a journal outlining Russ’ beliefs he was the “embodiment of God’s wrath.” Prosecutors were charging him with one criminal stalking count and two counts of mailing threatening communications.

 

Those charges were suspended for five years by a federal judge Friday, who ordered Russ stay with his parents in western Washington, surrender his guns and seek psychiatric evaluation. Russ will also be supervised by federal court officials as part of the pretrial agreement.

 

The order puts the prosecution on hold so that Russ can demonstrate “good conduct,” according to U.S. District Judge Thomas O. Rice. The ruling leaves the door open for future prosecution or to dismiss the charges entirely.

Unconscious teen found at drug bust in Bonners Ferry

A drug bust turned up an unconscious teenager in Bonners Ferry, Idaho, on Monday along with items believed to be stolen from the Kootenai River Inn and other locations.
An ambulance was called for the 17-year-old, who eventually revived enough to be released to a parent, according to a Boundary County spokesman Michael Meier.
The Bonners Ferry Police Department served a search warrant on the home and found marijuana, drug paraphernalia and methamphetamine packaged for sale in addition to the stolen items. Police arrested two men, both from Spokane, but their names have not been released.

Sentencing delayed for jailed developer Greg Jeffreys

The sentencing of jailed developer Greg Jeffreys, who pleaded guilty to fraud and contempt charges in November, will take a little longer than planned, in part to accommodate the dozens of witnesses the former Ridpath Hotel investor plans to call on his behalf.

A U.S. District Court judge this week delayed a hearing, expected to last at least two days, at which Jeffreys is expected to dispute the amount owed numerous debtors listed in court filings. Scheduled for February, the sentencing and a decision on how much Jeffreys owes in restitution will not come until later in March.

In his request for the continuance, Jeffreys and his attorney cite an extensive witness list - including bankers, assessors and family members - as part of the reason for the needed delay. In total, Jeffreys plans to call more than 30 people to testify about his debts and character. Some of those he plans to call were involved in leasing deals at the Ridpath, Spokane's historic hotel whose revitalization was impeded by Jeffreys' legal woes.

Jeffreys was indicted in January 2013 on multiple federal counts of bank and wire fraud, money laundering and theft tied to real estate dealings and developments that never materialized. Jeffreys and his wife, Kimberly, were implicated in a plot to steal federal government money when constructing a military entrance processing station off Highway 2. Employee Shannon Stiltner, who allegedly shared a casino suite with Jeffreys in Las Vegas, also pleaded guilty in November to concealing knowledge of a Ponzi scheme.

Stiltner's sentencing is still set for February.

 

$17 records dispute reaches state Appellate Court

A disagreement between Spokane County prosecutors and a man facing a felony harassment charge over a 911 call recording costing $17 was decided by a three-member panel of the Washington state Court of Appeals this week.

“Neither party, out of principle, will budge one cent,” wrote Judge George B. Fearing in a decision handed down Thursday. The court ordered Daniel Lee Brown must pay the fee to get a copy of the phone call that sent him to jail on suspicions he'd threatened to kill his girlfriend's new beau in January 2012.

Brown had argued his requirement to pay for the record violated his state constitutional rights as a criminal defendant. Prosecutors countered Brown filed his appeal of a trial court order “to make a point” and asked rhetorically, “is the defendant entitled to get anything he wants for free?”

Brown is fighting accusations he sent text messages to an ex-girlfriend who was staying with another man at his apartment. The man called police, a recording which has prompted the latest legal challenge. Brown was arrested outside the apartment complex and found with two firearms, including a loaded handgun in Brown's pants pocket. Brown admitted to police he'd sent threatening text messages, according to court documents.

Fearing and two colleagues sided with prosecutors and threw out Brown's request to dismiss the case or suppress the recordings at trial. Brown's trial was put on hold in June 2013 to give the appellate court time to reach a decision. He is not in custody, according to jail records.

Mendoza nominated for Eastern Washington judgeship

A Superior Court Judge in the Tri-Cities was nominated today by President Barack Obama for a federal judgeship in the Eastern District of Washington.

Salvador Mendoza Jr. would replace U.S. District Judge Lonny Suko, who has moved into senior status. The appointment must be confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

The nomination was among four announced today the White House. Federal judges are paid $174,000 a year.

Mendoza was appointed to the Benton and Franklin County bench in April by Gov. Jay Inslee. He has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Washington and completed his law degree from UCLA in 1997. In addition to having worked as a deputy prosecutor and assistant attorney general, he had focused on criminal defense while in private practice.

The Eastern District of Washington is based in Spokane but has judges in the Tri-Cities and Yakima.

Mendoza is the second judicial nominee awaiting Senate confirmation in Eastern Washington. Wenatchee lawyer Stan Bastian was nominated last fall to replace U.S. District Judge Ed Shea, who moved to senior status in the summer of 2012.

Federal judges who meet certain requirements are able to move into senior status rather than retire. It’s intended to keep experienced judges on the job by offering them reduced caseloads.

Judge denies stalking suspect’s request to dismiss charges

The Spokane man accused of sending threatening letters to a tribal police officer that included allusions to his belief he was the “Archangel of Death” remains in custody pending trial after a federal judge shot down his contention the mailings were protected by the First Amendment.

Brent Russ, 33, argued earlier this month the letters he sent a former neighbor expressed his religious views, not an intimidating intent. U.S. District Court Judge Thomas O. Rice denied the claim, as well as a request from Russ that he be released from custody ahead of his upcoming trial after two mental health experts deemed he posed no threat to the community.

“The Court continues to harbor reasonable concerns about Defendant’s mental stability that prohibit it from releasing Defendant at this time,” Rice wrote in an order denying Russ' release. Rice also found the language of the letter suggesting legal action, in which Russ wrote that he would “take everything you have, everything you ever had, and everything you ever will have through the courts,” was not solely a legal communication and thus did not qualify for First Amendment protection.

Concerns about Russ' mental state were raised after a disturbing manifesto was found at his home by federal agents investigating the stalking claims. In the journal, Russ admits slaying nocturnal creatures by slicing through their brains with a Samurai sword and says he experienced a “download” in early 2013 that prompted him to file lawsuits against the nation's biggest banks. He also wrote about sending plans to dissolve the government to President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner, according to court documents.

Russ has been in custody of U.S. marshals since his arrest in September. Defense attorney Andrea George has asked Rice to push the trial date from later this month to February to allow more time for experts to determine Russ' mental state.

Defendant in massive Oxycontin bust arrested for DUI

A Spokane woman implicated in a massive 2013 bust of an alleged prescription painkiller peddling ring was arrested early Tuesday on suspicions of driving under the influence, according to court documents.

Ashley Arredondo, 28, is one of 62 named defendants in a federal court case that has grown so large the judge has separated defendants into three groups. She was arrested in late February 2013 and released after posting bond a week later, according to court records. Arredondo faces a federal count of conspiracy to deliver a controlled substance, a charge which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

Shortly after 3 a.m. Tuesday, Arredondo was arrested in North Spokane near the 500 block of West Sierra Way, according to court documents. Deputies found Arredondo after she allegedly crashed into a home in her 2004 Cadillac Escalade and drove off. She told police she'd been drinking at two bars.

When deputies attempted to walk Arredondo to a nearby patrol car to take her to jail, she allegedly turned and spit in the face of one of the officers “without warning,” according to court documents.

Arredondo faces charges of driving under the influence, leaving the scene of a collision and third-degree assault of an officer. She is listed in custody of the Spokane County Jail.

The federal drug case continues its lengthy trek through the legal system. A jury trial in the case has been tentatively scheduled for May.

SpongeBob robber sentenced to 13 years

A Worley man who donned a cartoon character mask to rob an espresso stand in Coeur d’Alene last year will spend at least four years behind bars.

Kyle Ernest Campbell, 25, wore a SpongeBob SquarePants mask when he robbed Lean Bean Espresso at 1207 E. Sherman Ave. on Jan. 30, 2013.

Campbell, who pleaded guilty to armed robbery on Oct. 3, entered the stand armed with a handgun and demanded money from employees, who complied. He then fled on foot.

He was sentenced Monday by 1st District Judge Lansing Haynes to a prison term of four years fixed and another nine years indeterminate, with credit for time served.

Campbell has a lengthy arrest history, primarily on tribal charges, but only two convictions – for misdemeanor careless driving and minor in possession of alcohol, the Kootenai County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office said.

He acknowledged he has a substance abuse problem, the prosecutor’s office added.

Doctors: ‘Archangel of Death’ stalking suspect in remission

Citing two mental health professionals who say his psychosis was a “one-time episode” that is now in remission, the attorney for the Spokane man charged with stalking a tribal police officer after federal investigators discovered a disturbing manifesto in his home is asking for her client's release.

Brent Russ has remained in custody of U.S. marshals since his arrest in September. At the time, federal agents following up on claims from a tribal police officer she was being stalked by Russ, a former neighbor, found modified weapons and a journal in the man's home that discussed establishing a “kill room” similar to that featured in the television program “Dexter” and a “download” that prompted him to file civil claims against the nation's biggest banks. He also wrote of being an agent of Azrael, the fabled Archangel of Death.

A federal judge ordered Russ held pending a psychiatric evaluation in October. Another judge upheld that order last month.

But with two doctors now writing after independent evaluations that Russ poses no threat to the community, attorney Andrea George is asking Russ be released pending his trial, scheduled for later this month.

George will make her case, and ask that the charge against Russ be dropped, at a hearing scheduled for later this week. 

Police suspect woman in 2 pharmacy robberies

Spokane police are asking the public to help identify a woman suspected of robbing two pharmacies over the weekend.

The first robbery was at Safeway, 3919 N. Market, just after 4 p.m. Saturday. The second was at Fred Meyer at 400 S. Thor just before 5:45 p.m. Sunday. Both times, a female demanded prescription medication and fled.

The woman is described as white with brown hair, 5-foot-4 to 5-foot-6, 120 to 130 pounds, and 20 to 30 years old.

Crime Stoppers is offering a cash reward for anyone providing information leading to an arrest. Call the Crime Stoppers Tip Line at 1-800-222-TIPS or forward the tip via www.crimestoppersinlandnorthwest.org.

Jailed thief hides jewelry in Star Wars model, cellmate says

Thomas Clement decided not to hide diamond rings stolen from a Spokane jewelry store in a galaxy far, far away, according to a cellmate.

The convicted thief told a fellow inmate he secreted the spoils of a string of burglaries in the basement of his sister who lives on the South Hill. Among the hiding spots, according to court documents, was “a Star Wars model.”

Investigators also planned to search the sister's home for items stolen during break-ins at a rare coin shop and two video game retailers early in 2013, according to court documents. Those thefts occurred around the same time as the others that landed Clement in jail, according to investigators, and Clement confessed to the crimes to a fellow inmate while the two shared cells in both Spokane County Jail and Airway Heights Correctional Center.

The informant told police of the county jail confessions in November, hoping to receive a shorter sentence for a firearms charge that put him behind bars. Investigators then moved the two men, who were both being held at Airway Heights on separate charges, to the same cell in an effort to get Clement to say more about his alleged crimes. The timing of the thefts and the stolen items, included two Wii game systems and several rare coins, matched initial police reports of the incident, prompting the search of the South Hill home.

Investigators have not yet said what, if any, items were recovered at the house, including Wookies or padawans.

Multiple guns found in felon, robbery suspect’s home

A police search of a home near a Browne's Addition convenience store robbed multiple times last month revealed multiple guns thought to be owned by the nine-time convicted felon implicated in the thefts.

Justin Werle, 28, remains in custody at Spokane County Jail, facing charges of owning modified weapons illegally. He was previously implicated in at least one attempted robbery at Sunset Grocery, 1908 W. Sunset Blvd. on Dec. 28. But police said the store had been robbed twice previously in the previous four weeks and they thwarted Werle's plot for a third.

Investigators think the same white man - disguised in a hooded sweatshirt, gloves and a bandana - committed the two successful robberies. Police found a .22 revolver, a rifle and an “old rusty revolver” in Werle's residence, just behind the convenience store. Also recovered was a pack of cigarettes matching the brand of a carton stolen from the store earlier and a pair of gloves that appeared similar to those worn by the robber.

Prosecutors have not yet said whether they will pursue additional robbery charges against Werle, who was released from prison in January 2013 after serving time on multiple riot charges. A woman who identified herself as Werle's mother appeared at a court hearing last week, saying her son showed up at the convenience store armed with a sawed-off shotgun to protect a clerk who was concerned about the recent spate of robberies.

Police arrest man for indecent exposure on Christmas Day

Police say Jack Frost was nipping at more than Spokane man Lance Emigh's nose Christmas Day.

A taxi driver headed westbound on Sprague Avenue spotted Emigh, 46, standing near the Spokane Amtrak Station, standing completely naked and waving his arms, according to a probable cause affidavit. The taxi driver told police he believed Emigh was “making sure everyone was seeing him as they went by.”

The taxi driver circled back to Emigh's location and stopped, according to the affidavit. Emigh continued his behavior for a while longer before putting his pants back on. The driver waited until police arrived.

Spokane police arrested Emigh on charges of indecent exposure. Emigh was previously convicted of indecent exposure on Oct. 9, 2012.

Liberty Lake man disputes money owed to tow truck driver

A Liberty Lake patent holder whose allegations of police brutality were thrown out by a federal jury last month is continuing his protracted legal fight, appealing a judge's order he pay $10,000 to the tow truck driver whose repossession sparked a February 2010 spat.

Franklin Duncan filed paperwork in U.S. District Court earlier this month launching the appeal of an order from Judge Thomas O. Rice that he owed Victor Grant restitution. Duncan argued at trial that Grant entered the gated community where he lived near Liberty Lake golf course unlawfully to repossess his son's sports car. During their scuffle, Grant said Duncan tried to strangle him, while Duncan said Grant crushed his hand in the tow truck's winch.

A jury ruled unanimously in November that Duncan was at fault in the episode but awarded no damages. Following the ruling, Grant asked Rice to reconsider his request for compensation based on the Washington state strategic lawsuit against public participation (SLAPP) statute, which also mandates a penalty of $10,000 in addition to legal fees. Duncan argued that Grant's account of his behavior, which included punching a pillar and grinding his hand into a tree, amounted to a false report that prejudiced officers against him. Rice disagreed and granted Grant's request, prompting Duncan's appeal.

The case now heads to the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, headquartered in California.

 

 

Man who robbed woman at nail salon, threatened to shoot grandma sentenced

Kyle Henriksen, 23, will spend the next seven years in prison after pleading guilty earlier this month to first-degree robbery of a woman at gunpoint in a Spokane Valley nail salon last December.

Henriksen pleaded guilty to the robbery in September, but his original sentencing date was pushed back because of an October incident when the 23-year-old allegedly threatened to kill his grandmother. That incident does not appear to have affected Henriksen's plea deal. According to court records, Henriksen received an 87-month sentence, the lowest end of a sentencing range dictated by his criminal history.

Henriksen is currently being held at the Washington Corrections Center in Shelton, Wash., according to prison records.

The salon robbery took place Dec. 28, 2012, when Henriksen - clad in a black sweatshirt and wearing sunglasses - walked up to a woman he knew and demanded her purse, which contained $150 in cash. The woman tried to hit the gun out of Henriksen's hand, then he fled on foot before an arrest a few days later when a search during a traffic stop turned up drugs. Henriksen also pleaded guilty to assault charges stemming from a 2009 incident in which he pistol-whipped a man trying to return a stolen purse to Henriksen's girlfriend, according to court records.

Nicholas Richardson, 24, told police he'd driven the getaway car for Henriksen after the salon robbery. He pleaded guilty to second-degree robbery in March and served three months in prison, according to the Spokane County Sheriff's Office.

Henriksen told police who responded to the alleged death threat made in October that his grandmother had misunderstood what he said. The grandma told police she tried to keep Henriksen from pawning her big-screen television, prompting the spat.

Man who denies selling cocaine found with cocaine

A 31-year-old man arrested at the Spokane Valley Mall with cash and cocaine in his pockets faces more jail time after twice denying to officers he possessed drugs.

Johnnie Counts is being held in Spokane County Jail on drug sale and prisoner possession charges after his arrest around 2:30 p.m. Friday by a deputy assigned to the mall, according to court documents. Deputies placed Counts under arrest on an outstanding warrant and searched his pant pockets, revealing more than $700 in cash. Counts was asked if he was holding drugs and given a warning their discovery at the jail would bring “more trouble,” according to the deputy's sworn statement.

Counts told the deputy, “I used to use and sell cocaine; not anymore,” according to court documents.

Searched before booking, Counts was given another chance to inform officers of drugs. Again he declined, according to court documents. Jail officers then discovered a substance that tested as crack cocaine falling to the floor during a strip search. According to investigators, the drugs were packaged for sale. Because he was being detained by jail officers when the drugs were found, prosecutors are pursuing a prisoner-in-possession charge for Counts.

Counts is being held in lieu of $15,000 bond on the two felony charges, according to jail records.

 

Western Washington home tests positive for meth

A trio of college students on the West side are apartment hunting after health officials condemned their rental home, which tested positive for methamphetamine.

The whole story from The Associated Press, based on reporting from Seattle TV station KOMO News, follows:

BELLINGHAM, Wash. (AP) — A health official in Bellingham, Wash., says three college students who began to feel dizzy and lethargic after living for several months in a rental house have been told to find a new home after the house tested positive for methamphetamine. 
KOMO-TV reports (http://is.gd/5u36Oo ) that Whatcom County Health Department supervisor Jeff Hegedus says the Western Washington University students contacted the health department to ask that the home be tested. 
Hegedus said Friday that an initial health department test found meth contamination well above Whatcom County’s legal limit. A second test done by a decontamination contractor came back with an even higher meth reading. 
The health department official says the house was marked “unfit for occupancy” and the owners were told to hire a licensed decontamination contractor, which they did.

© Copyright 2013 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

String of laundry machine robberies ends for Spokane Valley man

Authorities hope a recent arrest will convince a suspected frequent laundry room burglar to change his ways.

Jason Amyot, 32, is being held at the Geiger Corrections Facility near Spokane International Airport, facing 17 counts of second-degree burglary. Police say Amyot went on a “crime spree” in Spokane Valley from September through October, breaking into laundry facilities at apartment complexes and busting open the machines to steal the coins within.

The thefts ranged in value from $12 at a complex on South Whipple Road late in September to a relative heist at a commercial laundry facility on East Sprague Avenue on two days earlier in the month, in which Amyot is thought to have stolen more than $2,000. Surveillance footage from that scene led officers to suspect Amyot, who has a long criminal history during which he's established a pattern of stealing from laundry machines, according to investigators.

Amyot said he was responsible for all but one of the 18 incidents police have linked to him. On some occasions, Amyot broke locks to get into the private laundry facilities; in others, he pried open windows from the outside or used keys that were hidden nearby. In at least one of the incidents, Amyot stole from facilities where friends were living, according to court documents.

One attempt, at a complex on Argonne Road, proved unsuccessful because the landlord had removed the change the day before the break-in, according to investigators.

Amyot has been in police custody since mid-October. He is being held on multiple warrants.

‘Archangel of Death’ stalking suspect remains in custody

Though a clinical psychologist concluded he was not a danger to the community, a Spokane man facing a federal stalking charge who was arrested after a cache of weapons and a disturbing journal was found in his home will remain in jail until his scheduled January trial date, a judge ruled Tuesday.

Brent Russ, 33, has remained in the custody of U.S. marshals since his arrest in September. Federal agents searched Russ' southwest Spokane home and discovered several guns modified to inflict greater harm, as well as photos of weapons on the man's computer that have yet to be located, according to subsequent briefs from investigators.

The search was prompted by a complaint from a female tribal police officer and former neighbor of Russ'. According to a now-sealed affidavit, Russ allegedly made statements indicating he had the woman under surveillance and sent her a threatening package when she approached mental health experts about his erratic behavior.

Among the written materials discovered by investigators were claims Russ was slaying nocturnal demonic creatures by slicing their brains with a sword and the construction of a “kill room” like something you would see in the television show “Dexter,” which details the exploits of a forensics investigator who moonlights as a serial killer.

Defense attorneys have elected not to pursue an insanity plea in the case, however they have signaled intentions to prove Russ was not fully aware of the consequences of his alleged criminal acts through a diminished capacity argument. United States District Judge Thomas O. Rice ruled the evaluation of Mark Mays, a psychologist who examined Russ, that the 33-year-old was not a danger to the community was not enough to release him from custody.

“… the Court still has reasonable concerns about the Defendant's competency,” Rice wrote.

A trial date in late January has been tentatively scheduled. Russ faces a maximum five-year prison term and a fine of up to $25,000 if convicted on the stalking charge.

Wiretaps scrutinized in multi-state drug case

A case involving 62 defendants and allegedly $20 million worth of California drugs sold on the West Coast continues its circuitous trek through the federal courts, with some suspects objecting to the government’s use of wiretapping in the investigation.

 

Federal authorities announced raids in February that ended in the apprehension of what investigators said were dozens of members of a sophisticated drug delivery ring, including at least nine people in Spokane. Among those arrested was Sally Guthrie, a restaurateur who owned three Flamin’ Joes locations in the county at the time she was booked.

Suspects in California and Western Washington were also arrested, all charged with peddling OxyContin, an oft-abused prescription painkiller. Illicit use is so prevalent the Food and Drug Administration announced in September new labeling guidelines for the drug and ordered studies by pharmaceutical companies into its long-term effects.

 

Investigators allege five people oversaw the operation, charging them with monitoring a continuing criminal enterprise. Prosecutors announced their intentions to prove Gilbert Leroy Madison, currently listed in custody of the Yakima County Jail, as “a leader and supervisor” of the plot, which allegedly ran from 2008 through January.

 

Defendants are so numerous they have been grouped into three parties by the court. Some have been housed in the Spokane County Jail, others in Benton and Yakima counties, while some remain out-of-custody throughout the West Coast. The case has kept court schedulers busy, with expected trial dates of May, then December, pushed to May 2014 and likely headed for further delays. Release of more than 100,000 pages of investigative discovery hit a snag when the government inadvertently released information that compromised one of its undercover informants, according to court documents.

 

Shindona Jones, a Los Angeles woman currently in custody of the Kittitas County Jail, has requested the government turn over the details of its wiretaps in the case. Investigators bugged the cellphones of the defendants, producing hours of recorded phone calls that prosecutors plan to admit as evidence. But Jones’ attorney says the government is remaining tight-lipped about the technology involved, potentially infringing on the woman’s Constitutional rights.

 

In retort, the government has said keeping such information confidential serves a public safety interest and should remain secret.

 

A federal judge ruled last month that the details of wiretapping technology used by investigators should be made available to defense attorneys. Officials briefed attorneys of their methods during a hearing held Tuesday in Spokane.

 

 The distributors in the case face potential fines of up to $1 million and 20 years in prison, while those allegedly in charge of the operation could be sentenced to life in prison.

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