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Jury deadlocks in park ranger case

Fri., May 30, 2014, 2:29 p.m.

A jury deadlocked on whether a Kettle Falls man assaulted a National Park Service ranger prior to a shooting that left a person on his houseboat injured.

A judicial assistant for Judge Justin Quackenbush said Friday afternoon a full day of deliberations had ended in a mistrial for Michael Sublie, who in addition to assault was charged with interfering in the duties of a federal agent. The case stemmed from an incident in September at the Kettle River Campground on Sublie’s houseboat, when loud music prompted a response from rangers Joshua Wentz and Matt Phillipson.

Prosecutors said Sublie shoved Wentz off a ramp to the boat, eventually prompting Phillipson to open fire, striking Casey Hartinger who was aboard. Defense attorney Roger Peven argued the rangers boarded the boat without cause and Wentz fell while trying to detain Sublie.

The case prompted outrage in Stevens and Ferry counties, where many complained of the encroachment by federal law enforcement. One local police officer was called in Sublie’s defense.

Quackenbush had asked Peven and U.S. Assistant Attorney Tyler Tornabene to seek resolution of the case outside the courtroom. The charged offenses were misdemeanors, carrying a maximum penalty of up to a year in prison. Sublie has no criminal history.

Prosecutors will now have to decide whether to seek an additional trial.

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