July 22, 2014 in City

Houseboat owner fined in dust-up with rangers

End-of-summer party brought officials out on noise complaint
By The Spokesman-Review

A Kettle Falls houseboat owner will pay a $100 fine for excessive noise as part of a deal to avoid another federal trial in a case where a National Park Service ranger shot another man on the boat in September 2013.

Michael Sublie agreed to the fine Monday that will keep him out of jail and, if he avoids a criminal conviction for the next six months, erase 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. The rangers said loud music was being played through speakers on the boat. Wentz alleged he was shoved in the confrontation, eventually leading prosecutors to seek a more serious charge of assault against Sublie in February. Sublie said no shoving occurred and the rangers attempted to board his boat without a warrant.

A jury deadlocked after a three-day assault trial this spring, and U.S. District Court Judge Justin Quackenbush declared a mistrial. At his urging, defense attorney Roger Peven and U.S. Assistant Attorney Tyler Tornabene reached the agreement to close the case.

“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 area residents who said federal authorities were overreaching their authority in Stevens and Ferry counties. At some point during the confrontation, Phillipson fired his gun into the boat, striking fellow partygoer Casey Hartinger in the side.

Hartinger was treated and released from a Spokane hospital.

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

The National Park Service still has not released the findings of an announced internal investigation into the actions of Phillipson and Wentz.

Hartinger, who was present in the courtroom Monday, is mulling a civil lawsuit, Peven said.

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