A candidate for Spokane County prosecutor has accepted a $500 campaign contribution from the wife of a man being prosecuted by the office he wants to oversee.
Records show that Republican prosecuting attorney candidate Dave Stevens accepted the donation in February and has kept the money despite knowing that the contributor’s husband, David Elton, faces three counts of felony harassment.
David Elton wrote in an e-mail in February that he would “donate as much as he could afford” to Stevens’ campaign. Documents from the state Public Disclosure Commission show that Elton’s wife, Belinda Elton, contributed $500 in February.
In an interview this week, Stevens said that he met with David Elton over coffee in February at Elton’s request and that it was during that conversation that he first learned about Elton’s legal problems. Stevens, a former Spokane County deputy prosecutor, said Elton tried to show him some papers related to the charges and that he told Elton not to talk to him about the pending case. He also said that he later advised Dale Nagy, the deputy prosecutor handling the case, that the conversation took place.
Stevens, who is challenging incumbent Republican Prosecutor Steve Tucker, said if Elton had sent him a check he would not have deposited it, but that he hasn’t refused the money, in part, because the donation was made over the Internet. He also said he’s short on campaign money, so he hasn’t returned it. “If I’d known what was going on with the guy, I would have never met with him and never had anything to do with him,” Stevens said.
Even so, Stevens said after he found out about the charges, he agreed to appear on Elton’s weekly radio show on KTRW 630 AM, a conservative local station.
“I just did it because I felt kind of obligated because he had donated,” Stevens said.
Elton, 44, is accused of making threats in e-mail messages to his ex-wife, Robin Stewart, Cowles Co. Chairwoman Betsy Cowles and Spokane City Council President Joe Shogan. The Cowles Co. owns The Spokesman-Review.
In an e-mail interview, Elton said “there is no conflict at all” for him to donate money to Stevens.
“I will donate the max to Dave Stevens,” Elton wrote. “Our current prosecutor is a horrible man. A true embarrassment to the voters.”
Court records indicate that Elton pleaded guilty in 2004 to harassment after he made a threatening phone call to his ex-wife.
Tucker said he wouldn’t take money from anyone facing charges from his office, but that he didn’t necessarily think it was a conflict for Stevens to do so.
Frank Malone, a Democrat also competing for the office, said he would return contributions from anyone facing charges from the office he hopes to oversee.
Elton’s ability to get attention from local politicians doesn’t end with Stevens.
It’s been more than a year since Elton wrote in an e-mail that he would “enjoy” the decapitation of Spokane City Council President Joe Shogan. But that alleged threat hasn’t stopped Shogan’s colleagues from appearing on Elton’s half-hour radio show.
Elton said he pays the station for the right to host the show, but declined to say how much.
So far, Elton’s guests have included City Council members Nancy McLaughlin and Steve Corker, former Councilman Al French, County Commissioner Mark Richard, and county commission candidate Steve Salvatori.
Those who’ve been on Elton’s show said their appearance was not meant in disrespect to Shogan.
“They are allegations,” Richard said. “I’m not one that’s prone to judge people before they’re found guilty of accusations.”
Said McLaughlin, “He was very pleasant and treated me very respectfully.”
And Shogan said he’s OK with his council colleagues appearing on Elton’s program.
Elton, a critic of the Cowles Co., said he likely will represent himself if the matter goes to trial.
“Tell Betsy her cross-examination will be very entertaining,” he said.
The alleged threat aimed at Shogan was written by Elton in an e-mail in December 2008.
In February 2009, Elton sent an e-mail that began “comedy below,” court records say. It then said he planned to kill himself before July 4 and that he wanted “to murder” a list of people that included Cowles and Stewart.
Elton has been open about his diagnoses of bipolarity and has discussed the disorder on his show.
“I believe this case will set a precedent in the area of freedom of speech … and also mental illness,” Elton said in the e-mail interview. “I feel a duty to represent my fellow bipolars. We are very much misunderstood.”