Bonner County law enforcement officers publicly denounced Prosecutor Tevis Hull this week, saying he’d rather plea-bargain than take a tough case to court.
The officers are steamed because Hull hasn’t filed charges against a man who allegedly shot and wounded a deputy two months ago.
Thirty-eight current and former officers, the vast majority county sheriff’s deputies, signed their names to a quarter-page advertisement in a local paper.
It was a way to give a vote of no-confidence to Hull, they said.
“To not charge a guy for shooting one of my deputies is garbage. It was the last straw,” said Lt. Doug Harris, who has been with the Sheriff’s Department eight years.
“That was a total foul-up by Tevis Hull, not the sheriff’s office or deputies. The prosecutor is not doing his job. Period. And we think people ought to know about it.”
Deputy John Givens, whose signature appears in the ad, was shot in the arm in November during a gunfight with several suspects.
Two men were arrested for the shooting, but Hull charged only one of them. The man who allegedly fired at the officer, Rayham Higgins, was wounded himself and stayed in the hospital under guard for eight days. He was released after Hull failed to file charges against him.
Hull blamed the sheriff’s office for the mix up, saying they didn’t do the proper paperwork and he didn’t even know Higgins was in custody.
But a deputy prosecutor was at the scene and the paperwork was done by state investigators, not sheriff’s deputies.
Hull declined further comment on the shooting, saying it’s still under investigation.
“This has cast a shadow on the department. The inference is the officer was in the wrong and the department does crappy work,” said Jim Peasha, a DARE officer with the Sheriff’s Department who also signed the ad.
In a written statement, Hull said he needs good police work to prosecute successfully and at times good police work is lacking in cases referred by the Sheriff’s Department.
“We are not in the business of protecting inadequate police work and many officers have been offended by this,” Hull said.
“We do not apologize for requiring more of an officer to benefit the people of Bonner County.”
Hull said he has invited officers to discuss their concerns with him, but only two have accepted the standing offer.
Lt. Harris said Hull’s statement is an insult to Bonner County officers.
“If he has (documents) showing officers have fouled up all the cases where he has reduced charges or plea-bargained, I would like to see it,” Harris said.
The officers said Hull has reneged on campaign promises to provide officer training and update them on new laws.
“Tevis also said he would work with us and not plea bargain cases out, but I have a computer full of cases that were reduced, dismissed or plea bargained,” Harris said.
Statistics detailing the disposition of Bonner County criminal cases were not immediately available.
Hull defended his record and said “plea bargain” is a misnomer.
There always are negotiations in cases, he said. The prosecutor has the discretion to decide what charges are filed, just as an officer decides whether to write a ticket, Hull said.
Officers are also accusing Hull for dragging his feet on some cases. A 2-year-old murder case, the shooting of Paul Gruber, was turned over to the state attorney general’s office instead of being handled by Hull.
The prosecutor said he requested the state take the case because he was a friend of the suspect and they attended the same church.
But other officers said Hull bowed out because he interfered with the case, telling the murder suspect not to talk to detectives and to get an attorney.
Hull is up for election this year. He has not decided whether he will run again for the $50,000-a-year job.
, DataTimes MEMO: Cut in the Spokane edition.