April 22, 2010 in City, Idaho

Developer accused of plotting murders in North Idaho

New charges arise from marijuana case
By The Spokesman-Review
 

Polatis
(Full-size photo)(All photos)

A Las Vegas developer acquitted by a federal jury in a North Idaho marijuana distribution case remains jailed without bail, now accused of conspiring to kill the prosecution’s key witnesses, including a Post Falls couple who testified against him.

Kelly J. Polatis, who worked with the company still fighting Kootenai County’s rejection of the proposed Chateau de Loire lakeside development, waived extradition Wednesday to Utah, where he’s been charged in U.S. District Court with using interstate commerce for the commission of murder for hire. He’s also suspected of plotting to kill a federal prosecutor.

Polatis, 40, was charged through a sealed complaint filed Friday, the same day a federal jury acquitted him of marijuana charges that carried a five-year minimum prison term.

His defense lawyer, noted Las Vegas litigator Gabriel Grasso, is suspicious over the timing of the new charges.

“That might tell you something: They don’t like to lose,” said Grasso, whose past clients have included reputed gangsters and former football great O.J. Simpson. “It’s a humbling thing to be faced with the might of the federal government and actually come out on top. Defense attorneys call it ‘walking on the moon.’ ”

Polatis was arrested with Karrie Hatridge, Charlie Hatridge and Ryan C. Jackson in November 2008 after Idaho State Police seized hundreds of marijuana plants from a Post Falls home owned by the Hatridges, who operated American Mortgage Solutions in Rathdrum.

Jackson is on three years of probation after taking a plea deal last summer. Karrie and Charlie Hatridge each pleaded guilty last summer to one count of conspiracy to manufacture marijuana; they are awaiting sentencing. They’re to forfeit $50,000 the government ruled came from their illegal activity.

The Hatridges were key witnesses in Polatis’ three-day jury trial in U.S. District Court in Coeur d’Alene last week.

Prosecutors argued Polatis was the main organizer of the marijuana operation and did most of the growing and selling, but jurors disagreed.

“I think the jury pretty much saw they (the Hatridges) were desperate to say whatever they needed to say to get the plea agreement and stay out of prison,” Grasso said.

The new charge against Polatis stems from alleged conversations he had with a government informant and undercover FBI agent in St. George, Utah.

Polatis, a businessman with several past projects in the Las Vegas area, had turned his attention to North Idaho but in 2008 moved to Utah while maintaining ties to the Inland Northwest.

While awaiting trial in the marijuana case, Polatis was allowed to return to St. George. He employed a nanny to care for his five children, but the nanny had a son who was a government informant, according to documents filed by Grasso.

Grasso claims in court documents that the informant pressured Polatis to talk about ways to “get rid” of witnesses and arranged a meeting with a “hit man” who actually was an undercover FBI agent.

One target of Polatis’ alleged plot was the assistant U.S. attorney prosecuting the marijuana case, Nancy Cook, according to court documents.

FBI spokeswoman Debbie Dujanovic Bertram declined comment.

Polatis is being held in solitary confinement at Bonner County Jail and is prohibited from using the phone, including to contact his children, because of the ongoing murder plot investigation, according to court records.

He’s expected to be transferred to Utah within 10 days.

Federal officials say they can’t talk about the case. Grasso said the sealed complaint prohibits him from discussing the murder plot allegation, too.

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