Former Sandpoint resident alleges malicious prosecution
SANDPOINT – A former North Idaho man is seeking at least $10 million in damages from Bonner County authorities after a district judge dismissed statutory rape allegations against him.
Gary Dean Blankenship Jr. claims he was maliciously prosecuted, his constitutional rights were violated, and his reputation and business interests were irreparably harmed during the case, according to a tort claim filed last week and obtained by the Bonner County Daily Bee. A tort claim is a precursor to a lawsuit.
First District Judge Steve Verby threw out a statutory rape charge against Blankenship last month, finding the statute of limitations had expired. Bonner County Prosecutor Louis Marshall said Friday he is seeking counsel from the Idaho attorney general’s office on whether to appeal.
Blankenship, a former Sandpoint resident who now lives in Washington, is seeking damages from the county and Sandpoint police. He claims the alleged victim in the case fabricated her claims and Marshall was aware the allegations were false.
“It appears Mr. Marshall’s callous disregard for the law and rules is motivated by the fact that he is facing re-election, and is attempting to make the prosecution of these kinds of charges his banner in the campaign,” the tort claim said.
Marshall declined to comment on allegations he was driven by political gain. He initially charged Blankenship in March with lewd and lascivious conduct with a minor under age 16, alleging the man engaged in this illegal activity twice during an eight-year span that ended in the mid-1990s, according to court documents.
After recognizing the statute of limitations for the lewd conduct charges had expired, Marshall amended the complaint to a single count of rape.
Blankenship was ordered to stand trial in October on the amended complaint, which alleged that he raped the girl in 1997 when she was between 15 and 16. He pleaded not guilty and sought to dismiss the case, arguing the statute of limitations still barred prosecutors from pursuing the rape charge.
Marshall then sought to amend the charge to forcible rape, which carries no statute of limitations. On Aug. 15, Verby ruled there was insufficient evidence to sustain the charge and denied the motion to amend the complaint.
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