July 21, 2014 in City

Houseboat owner fined in Park Service shooting incident

By The Spokesman-Review
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A Kettle Falls houseboat owner will pay a $100 fine for excessive noise but avoid assault charges in an incident involving a shooting by National Park Service ranger in September.

Michael Sublie agreed to a deal Monday that will keep him out of jail and, if he avoids a criminal conviction for the next six months, dismiss all charges in the Sept. 14 confrontation. Prosecutors initially charged Sublie with interfering with the duties of a federal agent and disobeying posted noise rules at the Kettle River Campground during what witnesses described as an end-of-the-summer party.

Rangers Joshua Wentz and Matthew Phillipson said they approached Sublie’s boat, one of several docked at the secluded campground northwest of Kettle Falls, shortly after 10 p.m. Wentz alleged he was shoved in the incident, eventually leading prosecutors to seek a more serious charge of assault against Sublie in February. Sublie said no shoving occurred.

A jury deadlocked after a three-day trial earlier this summer, and U.S. District Court Judge Justin Quackenbush declared a mistrial. At his request, defense attorney Roger Peven and U.S. Assistant Attorney Tyler Tornabene reached the agreement that Quackenbush approved Monday.

“I think this is a good resolution,” Quackenbush said from the bench, turning to address Sublie. “I don’t have any concern with you being back before this court in the next six months.”

The incident prompted a public outcry among residents who said federal authorities were overreaching their authority in the areas of Stevens and Ferry counties. At some point during the confrontation, Phillipson fired his gun into the boat, striking fellow partygoer Casey Hartinger.

“You made a mistake, just as the officers that night made serious mistakes,” Quackenbush told Sublie.

The National Park Service still has not released the findings of an announced internal investigation into the actions of Phillipson and Wentz. Their identities were released through court documents, not the agency.

Hartinger, who was present in the courtroom Monday, is mulling a civil lawsuit in the case, said Sublie’s attorney Peven. He added the resolution of the criminal matter was important to Sublie.

“On all sides here, this has been a matter that’s been difficult to resolve,” Peven said. “My client wants to put this behind him.”

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