Jurors took 12 hours to decide Wednesday that two Kootenai County men accused of abducting and beating a 17-year-old girl were guilty only of a misdemeanor.
Alan D. Burtness, 26, of Post Falls, and Daniel A. McCullough, 25, of Coeur d’Alene, were convicted of false imprisonment, a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail.
Burtness and McCullough both were charged with first-degree kidnapping and battery. Had the men been convicted of kidnapping, they would have faced life in prison.
Jurors acquitted Burtness of battery, but could not reach a verdict on McCullough’s battery charge. Both men denied hurting the girl, and said they did not agree to take her home that night. Jury deliberations began Tuesday and ended Wednesday.
Prosecutors alleged during a six-day trial that the men drove a girl they met at a July 10 party to an out-of-the-way trailer near Spirit Lake and attacked her, instead of taking her home.
“They took her somewhere she didn’t want to go and they roughed her up out there,” Lansing Haynes, chief deputy prosecutor, said Tuesday during closing arguments.
Donna Morledge, who was in town visiting her mother last summer, told deputies she met the men at a party near North Idaho College and accepted a ride home from them.
Instead of driving Morledge to her mother’s Bayview home, the men drove her to an empty trailer near Highways 41 and 53 and jumped her, Haynes said. Morledge said she clung to a post and a step in front of the trailer in a desperate attempt to escape the men.
Eventually, Morledge ran from the men through a field, and smeared mud on her face and hair to disguise her light complexion. She hid under a car until the sun came up, and went to a nearby house for help.
Defense attorneys challenged Morledge’s story, saying Morledge willingly accepted a ride from the men and suggesting she was injured during a paranoid run through the field. The girl admitted she had been drinking a little and took a puff on a marijuana cigarette.
“She ran into fences. She fell down,” said deputy public defender Gary Amendola, who represented Burtness. “She bruised herself. She cut herself. She hurt herself running crazily.”
Amendola and McCullough’s court-appointed attorney, Monica Flood, questioned why Morledge did not run from the men during stops at Burtness’ Post Falls home and a convenience store.
“She was free to leave on any number of occasions,” Amendola said.
Morledge likely was bruised during a car accident and scuffle she got into hours before she arrived at the party, defense attorneys said. The rest of the injuries probably happened when she stumbled into a hole and ran from the men, mistakenly believing she was in danger, they said.
“Her story is so fantastic it’s just not believable,” Flood said.
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