A jury today convicted a Spokane man of two counts of misdemeanor harassment against City Council President Joe Shogan and Betsy Cowles, chairwoman of the company that owns The Spokesman-Review.
The jury of eight men and four women ruled that while David H. Elton, 44, harassed Shogan and Cowles, his actions did not make the two legitimately fear for the lives and thus was not a felony. Deputy Prosecutor Dale Nagy, who had asked for a conviction of felony harassment-threats to kill, said jurors did their jobs.
“That’s what the system’s all about,” he said.
Elton’s lawyer, Mark Hodgson, said he doesn’t feel Elton’s conduct rose to the level of harassment against Shogan, who was not listed in an e-mail Elton sent to acquaintances in February 2009 listing seven people he wanted to kill. Cowles was included in the list. Elton, a former Spokane County commission candidate, didn’t send the e-mail to either victim; they learned of them through concerned citizens.
“I think it was probably a just verdict,” Hodgson said. He said he was particularly pleased jurors ruled neither Shogan nor Cowles had reason to fear for their lives.
“That’s always been our position, that there was never a true threat to kill,” Hodgson said.
Elton was arrested in February 2009 after sending an e-mail in which he wrote, “That is the crux of the problem, I want to murder the following people,” and listed seven names, including Cowles and her brother, Spokesman-Review Publisher Stacey Cowles. Elton also wrote that he was proficient in the use of high-powered rifles and knew his intended victims’ schedules well.
Elton has said the e-mail, which began “Comedy below,” was a joke.
Elton had sent another e-mail in December 2008 in which he mentioned Shogan and said he would “enjoy the decapitation of Joey boy.”
Spokesman-Review blog contributor John Olsen called Elton after receiving the February e-mail and asked him to promise to call if he felt he was going to harm himself or any of the seven people. Elton told Olsen he couldn’t promise not to harm Shogan or Betsy Cowles. Olsen called Shogan, who called police.
The administrator of the Spokesman-Review’s Community Comment blog, Dave Laird, also received the e-mail and notified newspaper management.
Cowles and Shogan testified Tuesday, saying they feared for their lives and changed their daily routines after reading the e-mails. Shogan said he still carries a restraining order against Elton in his wallet.
Jurors deliberated for more than day before reaching the verdict about noon today.
Elton faces up to a year in jail when he’s sentenced Oct. 27. He’s already served 16 days.
He also faces a second trial for alleged threats made to his ex-wife, Robin Stewart.
Elton asked Judge Maryann Moreno if he could start attending city council meetings again, but Nagy said he’s still prohibited from contacting Shogan.