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Shogan, Cowles describe fear of threats

Wed., Oct. 6, 2010

Elton trial testimony centers on e-mails sent in 2008, 2009

Spokane City Council president Joe Shogan claims he so feared the man on trial for harassing him that he changed his daily routine and still carries a copy of a restraining order in his wallet.

“I’m always on the alert for somebody who looks like David Elton,” Shogan testified Tuesday in Spokane County Superior Court.

Elton, a civic gadfly and former Spokane County commissioner candidate, is charged with two counts of felony harassment for alleged threats he made against Shogan and Betsy Cowles, chairwoman of the Cowles Co., which owns The Spokesman-Review.

But Elton’s lawyer, Mark Hodgson, said what’s been described as death threats were just disturbing e-mails sent to acquaintances, not to Cowles or Shogan.

Testimony referenced two e-mails – one in December 2008 in which Elton said he would “enjoy the decapitation of Joey boy,” and another from February 2009 in which Elton listed seven people he said he has thoughts of killing, including Cowles.

Elton, 44, maintains he was joking and that he would never harm anyone.

Spokane resident John Olsen, who knows Elton through The Spokesman-Review Community Comment blog, told jurors he called Elton after reviewing the e-mail and asked him to promise to call if he felt he was going to harm himself or any of the seven people. Shogan wasn’t on the list, but Elton told Olsen he couldn’t promise not to harm Shogan or Cowles.

Olsen then told Shogan of the threat, and Shogan notified Spokane police, according to testimony.

“Your entire basis of fear was based on what Mr. Olsen told you?” Hodgson asked Shogan. Shogan replied that Olsen’s information simply confirmed his fears from the December e-mail, which had been forwarded to him by someone else.

In testimony Tuesday, Cowles pointed to previous e-mails in which Elton, who was banned from The Spokesman-Review website and building at least a year before his arrest, said he’d been stalking the Cowles family.

She said the fact that Elton didn’t send the e-mail directly to her didn’t lessen her concern.

“I took it seriously, and I don’t think it matters that it came through three or four other people,” Cowles said. “A threat is a threat.”

Deputy Prosecutor Dale Nagy said he expects the case to go to the jury today.

Elton, who has bipolar disorder, faces a separate trial for alleged threats made to his ex-wife, Robin Stewart.

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