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Sirens & Gavels

Posts tagged: Kootenai County District Court

Man gets 8-18 years for road rage death

A North Idaho man who fatally ran over a woman during a 2006 road rage incident was sentenced Monday to 18 years in prison.

 Jonathan Wade Ellington, 51, had been serving a 25-year sentence when the Idaho Supreme Court overturned his convictions last May because of problems with his first trial.

Under the sentence imposed Monday by Kootenai County Judge John Luster, Ellington will be eligible for parole after eight years and credited for time already spent in custody, according to the Associated Press.

A jury convicted Ellington Jan. 31 of second-degree murder for the death of Vonnette Larsen and two counts of aggravated battery for ramming her daughters’ vehicle.

The fatal encounter began when Ellington punched Larsen’s daughters’ car window and the women, and eventually their parents, gave chase at about 90 mph.

Vonnette Larsen's husband fired a .44 Magnum pistol at Ellington seconds before she was run over.

According to the Coeur d'Alene Press, Luster said “poor decisions” were made “across the board” by all the parties involved in the incident.

“I’ll never be able to make sense of the behaviors of that day,” Luster said.

He said the Larsens “clearly” share in the responsibility Vonnette Larsen’s death, even though they have denied so.

Man guilty in Bayview hammer murder

In this Sept. 30 photo, Bayview hammer attack vicitm Yvonne Wallis says she wants Larry Cragun to receive the death penalty for the attack. (SR/Kathy Plonka)

A North Idaho man who bludgeoned four people with a hammer in a brutal murder in Bayview last year has pleaded guilty.

 Larry Ward Cragun, 32, faces a mandatory life sentence with possible eligibility for parole after 10 years when he’s sentenced in May, Kootenai County Prosecutor Barry McHugh said Friday.

McHugh said he’ll recommend Cragun serve 40 years before he’s eligible for parole.

Read the rest of my story here.

Past coverage:

Oct. 23, 2011: Bayview victim: 'I'm just an invalid'

Dec. 20, 2010: 1 dead, 3 injured in Bayview hammer attack

Man guilty in road rage murder re-trial

A jury today convicted a North Idaho man of second-degree murder for fatally running over a woman during a 2006 road rage incident with her husband and two daughters.

Jonathan Wade Ellington, 51, has already served six years in prison for the Jan. 1, 2006, incident but was released last year after the Idaho Supreme Court overturned his convictions because of problems with his first trial.

Judge John Luster today allowed him to stay out of jail until his new sentencing, which is scheduled for March 26.

Read the rest of my story here.

Deputy Prosecutor Luke Malek, who is running for the Idaho state Legislature, congratulated his office in a Facebook post: “8 months after a scathing, dicta-filled opinion, professionalism and justice prevail. Congratulations to Art Verharen and Barry McHugh for courage in the face of populist ridicule.”

Past coverage:

May 27: Idaho Supreme Court overturns Ellington murder conviction

Jury still out in road rage murder case

Jurors today continue to deliberate the fate of of a North Idaho man charged with murder for running over a woman during a road rage encounter with her husband and daughters six years ago.

 The jury of 12 Kootenai County residents asked 1st District Judge John Luster the difference between 'deliberate' and 'intentional' in a question submitted just before noon today.

 Luster provided them with an additional instruction defining intentional as 'if done on purpose' and 'deliberate' as 'done on reflection.'

“It's understandable that the jury is struggling with that distinction between those two terms,” Luster said.

The language could be crucial to the verdict as jurors decide whether to convict or acquire Jonathan Wade Ellington, 51, (pictured) of second-degree murder for the Jan. 1, 2006, death of Vonnette Larsen.

Jurors also have alternative charges of manslaughter and vehicular manslaughter.

Prosecutors Barry McHugh and Art Verharen told the judge they believe today's additional instruction places an unfair burden on them to prove premeditation, which is only required for first-degree murder.

Luster disagreed.

“I don't believe this instruction places any greater burden on the state,” he said.

Court officials ordered lunch for the jury, which is in it's third day of deliberations. They began Friday afternoon after closing arguments.

Prosecutors say Ellington chose to turn his Bronco into the wrong lane and accelerate toward Larsen instead of staying in his lane and driving away from the scene at Scarcello Road, north of Coeur d’Alene.

But Ellington’s lawyers say he was fleeing gunfire from Vonnette Larsen’s husband, Joel Larsen, when the Bronco ran her over.

It's Ellington's second trial. He was serving a 25-year sentence for seocnd-dgree murdre when the Idaho Supreme Court reversed his convction and ruled an Idaho State Police corporal lied on the witness stand.

Read more from closing arguments here.

2nd trial begins in ‘06 road rage death

Jonathan Wade Ellington and his girlfriend leave Kootenai County District Court during a break in the opening day of his trial Thursday. (SRPhoto/Meghann Cuniff) Ellington is pictured below in 2006.

Prosecutors say he used his vehicle as a weapon against two sisters and their mother in an angry road encounter fueled by his own rage.

But Jonathan Wade Ellington’s lawyers told jurors at the opening day of his murder trial Thursday that the North Idaho man was simply trying to get away from gunfire when he ran over and killed Vonnette Larsen on Jan. 1, 2006.

“It’s a tragedy, but it’s not a crime,” said John Adams, head of the Kootenai County Public Defender’s Office.

Read the rest of my story here.

Ruling clears way for 2nd road rage trial

A judge this morning refused to dismiss murder charges against a North Idaho man because of a last-minute evidence issue in his 2006 road-rage case, clearing the way for a second trial.

Jonathan Wade Ellington (pictured) was imprisoned for four years  on a murder conviction that was overturned because the Idaho Supreme Court ruled a state trooper lied at the first trial in 2006.

Opening statements in his second trial are expected Thursday morning. A jury is being selected today in Judge John Luster's courtroom at the Kootenai County Courthouse in Coeur d'Alene.

Ellington has been free since early November on a $50,000 property-backed bond after returning to Kootenai County from a prison near Boise.

Ellington is accused of running over Vonnette Lee Larsen, 41, in 2006 during a fit of road rage north of Coeur d’Alene. Larsen and her husband were pursuing Ellington after their daughters told them he’d punched their windshield, and at one point before the fatal crash Joel Larsen fired a rifle at Ellington.

When Ellington was sentenced in December 2006, his girlfriend, Ann Thomas, vowed to appeal. “Eventually, it’ll get to a real court,” Thomas said.  Ellington called the case against him “mind-boggling.” “I don’t understand this – I never will,” he said. Read that story here.

The case is being prosecuted by Barry McHugh and Art Verharen. Ellington is represented by John Adams and Ann Taylor.

I'll be covering the trial. Look for updates here and on my Twitter page throughout the opening day.

More past coverage:

Sept. 8, 2006: Ellington found guilty

Aug. 25, 2006: Daughter describes mother's death

Man gets 5 years to life for sex abuse

A Coeur d'Alene man will spend five years to life in prison for lewd conduct with a 14-year-old girl, a judge ruled this week.

Nicholas James Ryan, 32, was sentenced Tuesday to life in prison with eligibility for parole after five years. He'll serve the sentence the same time as a sentence for contacting the girl after his arrest despite a court order prohibiting the communication.

Ryan was sentenced by Kootenai County District Judge John Mitchell. He pleaded guilty on Oct. 31. He has three prior felony convictions for drugs, according to the Kootenai County Prosecutor's Office.
In a prepared statement, Prosecutor Barry McHugh praised the work of the Coeur 'Alene Police Department and Deputy Prosecutor Josh Studor.

McHugh said the sentence “was appropriate given the defendant's post-arrest conduct indicating a desire to continue an illegal and immoral relationship, and his efforts to coerce the victim to lie about the relationship.”
  

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.

Hoopfest convict wanted in North Idaho

A man involved in a gang-related shooting at Hoopfest is wanted in North Idaho for felony injury to a child.

Marquis D. Johnson, 23, has a $50,000 warrant for his arrest in Kootenia County for allegedly assaulting a 6-year-old girl in Coeur d'Alene on June 25.

Johnson is accused of throwing a salt-and-pepper shaker at the girl, according to court documents. Further details are pending a week-old records request for a report from the Coeur d'Alene Police Department.

Johnson was given an exceptionally low sentence of six months in jail last fall after pleading guilty to second-degree assault in relation to the shooting at Hoopfest.

Johnson was originally charged with about a dozen counts of attempted murder after gunshots injured two girls and grazed a bystander at the annual basketball tournament in downtown Spokane on June 26.

The triggerman, Miguel C. Garcia, is serving a nine-year prison sentence. Johnson had been released from prison just three weeks earlier after serving three years for a shooting in Spokane that didn't injure anyone.

The warrant in Kootenai County was issued Aug. 5.

Anyone with information on Johnson's location is asked to call the sheriff's department at (208) 446-1300.

CdA lawyer ordered back to prison

A Coeur d'Alene defense lawyer and former deputy prosecutor is going back to prison after a judge ruled he'd violated his probation on OxyContin charges.

Shawn C. Nunley, 40, was ordered to prison late last week after his probation officer said he smelled faintly of alcohol when he reported to his office May 9, and that his blood alcohol level registered at .017.

Nunley admitted to consuming alcohol that day and the day before and said “he didn't think it was a big deal,” according to court documents. He also refused to provide a urine sample as requested. His probation officer said Nunley agreed not to travel to Orange County as previously allowed but that he left the probation office without asking and boarded a plane at the Spokane airport the next day, court documents say.

Nunley was placed on supervised probation in February after 1st District Judge Ben Simpson retained jurisdiction over his drug case and sent him to get treatment with the Idaho Department of Correction in October 2010. Simpson ruled last week that his probation violations warranted his prison sentence reinstated, so he's to serve two years in prison and four years probation.

Nunley was arrested July 29. A Kootenai County Jail official said he listed his occupation to be an attorney, but Idaho state bar records saw his license is suspended.

Nunley was first arrested in December 2008 after police said he recruited a client to help feed his OxyContin addiction. The man later went to police and acted as a confidential informant while detectives monitored a transaction between the two.

Federal drug charges were dismissed in June 2009, but Kootenai County prosecutors charged Nunley in March 2010.

Nunley graduated near the top of his class at the University of Idaho and spent time at a large Boise law firm before moving to North Idaho and joining the Kootenai County Prosecutor’s Office. The prosecutor at the time, Bill Douglas, said Nunley “did a very good job.” He worked there for three years before opening his own firm in Coeur d'Alene.

Murder conviction tossed in ‘06 road rage

BOISE – State Supreme Court justices have thrown out the second-degree murder conviction of a North Idaho man, citing prosecutorial misconduct and the likelihood that an Idaho State Police officer committed perjury during the 2006 trial.

Jonathan Wade Ellington, of Hayden, was sentenced to 25 years for second-degree murder and 15 years each on two counts of aggravated battery charges for running over a woman during what was described as a road-rage encounter on New Year’s Day 2006.

But Friday, Idaho’s high court unanimously ruled Ellington should get a new trial. In the 32-page ruling, the justices wrote the Kootenai County prosecutor engaged in misconduct during the trial, in part by engaging in improper questioning meant to turn the jury against Ellington.

Read the rest of the Associated Press story here.

When Ellington was sentenced in December 2006, his girlfriend, Ann Thomas, vowed to appeal. “Eventually, it’ll get to a real court,” Thomas said.  Ellington called the case against him “mind-boggling.” “I don’t understand this – I never will,” he said. Read that story here.

Other past coverage:

Sept. 8, 2006: Ellington found guilty

Aug. 25, 2006: Daughter describes mother's death

Repeat sex offender gets 15 years to life

A sex offender with a lengthy criminal history in Oregon will serve 15 years to life in prison for molesting a girl in Post Falls.

Roy L. Goldsborough, 52, was arrested in December after a 12-year-old girl told family members about the abuse.

Post Falls police recorded a phone call between the girl and Goldsborough in which he confessed to the abuse, according to court documents. He pleaded guilty in March to lewd conduct with a minor under 16 and being an habitual offender.

Kootenai County District Curt Judge John Mitchell sentenced him Wednesday to life in prison with eligibility for parole after 15 years, with credit for time served in the Kootenai County Jail.

Mitchell noted Goldsborough's extensive criminal history, the nature of the offense and his “blame shifting” when sentencing him, accoridng to the Kootenai County Prosecutor's Office.

Goldsborough's criminal history includes convictions for two counts of sexual abuse, two counts of felony assault and single counts of petit theft, delivery of a controlled substance and driving under the influence. Goldsborough moved to Post Falls last fall.

In a prepared statement, Prosecutor Barry McHugh said the sentence “was appropriate given the unconscionable nature of the offense and the continued predatory conduct by the defendant.”

Child molester sentenced to 15+ years

A Post Falls sex offender will spend 15 year to life in prison after being convicted of his third sex crimes case since 1990.

Daniel Eugene Nichols, 51, (pictured) was convicted by a jury last month of two counts of lewd conduct related to “inappropriate touching” with an 11-year-old girl whom he knew through her family and lured to a his garage, according to the Kootenai County Prosecutors Office.

Judge Lansing Haynes sentenced Nichols to 25 years in prison with 15 fixed and 10 indeterminate, prosecutors said Friday.

Nicholas has previous convictions for child molestation in Washington in 1990, malicious mischief in 1992, communication with a minor for immortal purposes in 1994, domestic violence in 2004, drunken driving in 2006 and domestic violence in 2008.
 
In a prepared statement, Kootenia County Prosecutor Barry McHugh praised the work of the Post Falls Police Department and noted that “the fixed term guarantees that Nichols will not be able to victimize other children for an extended period of years.”

New trial request alleges jury misconduct

Two Coeur d’Alene brothers convicted in October of a hate crime have requested a new trial, accusing the presiding juror of misconduct.

William Tankovich Jr. (below) and his brother Frank Tankovich (right) were convicted of felony malicious harassment and conspiracy to commit malicious harassment for a 2009 altercation with a Puerto Rican man, Kenneth Requena. 

The Tankoviches’ attorneys, Jedediah Whitaker and Chris Schwartz, said in their motions for a new trial that the presiding juror attempted to influence another juror “through the use of guilt, recrimination, harassment and the false display of authority.”

Read the rest of Allison Boggs’ story here.

Baby sitter pleads guilty to manslaughter

A baby sitter who pushed a 3-year-old Post Falls boy, resulting in a fatal head injury, pleaded guilty Tuesday to voluntary manslaughter.

Amanda L. Skogen, 26, faces up to 15 years in prison when she’s sentenced early next year in Kootenai County District Court. Skogen pleaded guilty this afternoon and had her $1 million bond reduced to $100,000, said Post Falls Police Chief Scot Haug.

“We’re pleased to see some resolution to this case,” Haug said.

Prosecutors says Skogen was on her knees when she violently shoved Cohen Johnson on Oct. 4, causing him to fall back and hit his head.

She confessed to shoving the boy after he wet his pants and reportedly told police: “I hurt a poor little defenseless boy … And it was all my fault.

Prosecutors sought a first-degree murder charge against Skogen, which is punishable by up to life in prison or the death penalty, but Magistrate Judge Clark Peterson ruled earlier this month that involuntary manslaughter was the appropriate charge.

But Skogen and prosecutors agreed to a deal in which she pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter, which carries a possible extra five years in prison, said Prosecutor Barry McHugh.

Renter arrested after escapee caught

A jail inmate who escaped from work crew was arrested Thursday at a home in the South Perry Neighborhood, leading to the renter’s arrest on a criminal assistance charge. 

Jason W. Breedlove, 37, was allowed out of Geiger Corrections Center with a work crew despite a recent recommendation from booking officials that he be placed in a more secure facility, according to the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office. He walked away from snow clean up on Dec. 1.

Breedlove is charged with several property crimes in Kootenai County, including a car prowling at Capone’s Pub and Grill last summer, according to court records.

Read my full story here.

Brothers guilty in CdA hate-crime case

Following the third trial in eight months, two Coeur d’Alene brothers  were found guilty Thursday of racially harassing and threatening a Hispanic man in August 2009.

Sentencing was set for Jan. 13 for Frank James Tankovich, 47, (right) and William Michael Tankovich Jr., 50, (left) who were found guilty of malicious harassment and conspiracy to commit malicious harassment against Kenneth Requena, a Puerto Rican man.

“For a while there, I felt like I was on trial,” said Requena, who felt so threatened when the Tankovich brothers drove by his home on Aug. 16, 2009, that he pulled a gun and had his wife call 911. Defense attorneys said it was Requena’s actions that escalated the incident.

Read the rest of Alison Boggs’ story here.

Hate-crime trial begins in Coeur d’Alene

The third round of a hate crime trial opened Tuesday in Coeur d’Alene, with two brothers accused of racially harassing a Hispanic man in the summer of 2009.

The first trial ended in mistrial in March after the first witness took the stand and referred to the incident on a 911 tape as a “racist thing,” offering an opinion for which Kootenai County 1st District Judge John Luster said the prosecution had not laid proper foundation.

The second trial ended in April with a hung jury on the two counts against William (right) and Frank (left) Tankovich.

Jurors voted 11-1 in favor of acquittal on the charge of malicious harassment and 8-4 in favor of not guilty on a second charge of conspiracy to commit malicious harassment. The verdict must be unanimous.

The jury foreman at the time said the jury had struggled to connect the threats with race.

Read the rest of Alison Boggs’ story here.

Past coverage:

Aug. 10: Hate-crime suspect gets 9 years for firearm

Sex w/ girl gets CdA man at least 8 years

A Coeur d’Alene man with a history of sexually abusing girls will spend at least eight years in prison for having sex with a 14-year-old girl.

Michael W. Brady, 24, was sentenced Thursday to up to life in prison for five counts of lewd and lascivious conduct with a minor. The first eight years are fixed; the remaining life term is indeterminate, according to a news release from Kootenai County Prosecutor’s Office.

At the time of the encounters, Brady was on parole for an aggravated assault conviction that stemmed from an allegation of sex with a minor girl. A misdemeanor assault charge followed the alleged rape of a third girl, and while in custody Brady wrote to another teen hoping to arrange a future meeting, the release said.

“Mr. Brady is an adult who has preyed on teenage girls. His prior convictions did not deter him from this conduct, and even while in jail he was unable to curb his predatory practices,” Prosecutor Barry McHugh said in the release. “The sentence will protect society from Mr. Brady for at least eight years. After that, even if released from prison, he will be on parole for the rest of his life.”

Ex-insurance agent gets 20 days for fraud

A former Mutual of Omaha insurance agent from Rathdrum is to spend 20 days in jail for submitting a life insurance policy application in a client’s name without her knowledge.

Wesley Bruce Thompson, 58, submitted the life insurance policy application by scanning the client’s signature from another policy and photocopying it onto the false application, according to a news release. He pleaded guilty to insurance fraud on July 29.

On Tuesday, Judge John Mitchell ordered Thompson to serve 20 days in jail, complete 400 hours of community service and pay $4,210 in restitution, the news release said.

The Special Prosecutions Unit of the Attorney General’s Criminal Law Division and the Idaho Department of Insurance investigated the case at the request of Mutual of Omaha.

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