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Vovos drops Jeffreys as client

Embattled Spokane Developer Gregory Jeffreys will have to face 73 felony counts of fraud-related federal charges without the services of experienced defense attorney Mark Vovos.

 

Vovos has filed a motion to withdraw from the case after initially representing Jeffreys in the first two hearings following Jeffreys’ Jan. 25 indictment on dozens of counts of bank fraud and money laundering charges stemming from a series of transactions in what government prosecutors have described as a Ponzi scheme.

 

“Mr. Jeffreys is currently without funds to pay for an attorney or the attendant and necessary costs for his defense,” Vovos wrote in court records. “In my view of the money laundering charges and my limited review of his financial situation, he has not funds for an attorney or experts that are necessary in this complex litigation.”

 

Jeffreys, 53, has largely been blamed for the legal and financial debacle surrounding the Ridpath Hotel. He faces 73 felony counts of fraud and money-laundering charges in which federal prosecutors allege he, Shannon Stiltner, and his wife used forged documents to defraud banks and others to invest in buildings that often didn’t even exist.

None of the charges against him, however, are related to his dealings involving the Ridpath.

 

Also charged in the case are 53-year-old Kimberly Jeffreys and 51-year-old Stiltner. Both have been released on bond but U.S. Magistrate Judge Cynthia Imbrogno ordered Gregory Jeffreys held in the Spokane County Jail without bond following a contentious hearing on Feb. 1.

 

Read previous coverage here and here.

Letters address cop shooter’s release

Three recent letters to the editor address the case of Charles Wallace, who shot two sheriff's deputies last month after being released from jail on federal heroin charges.

Magistrate Cynthia Imbrogno ordered Wallace to report to a drug rehab center in Spokane Valley on May 31. He shot shot Deputies Matt Spink and Mike Northway on June 19 after authorities said he escaped from the facility.

Imbrogno has fallen under much scrutiny - scrutiny that longtime defense lawyer Mark Vovos said is undeserved.

Wallace “faced one count that had a sentencing guideline range of 24-30 months when he was released with conditions,” Vovos wrote. Read the full letter here. (Wallace was indicted the day of the shooting on charges that carried a potential life sentence, but that wasn't filed when he was released.)

In a letter published Saturday in response to this letter from lawyer Jeffry Finer, anti-drug war activist Chuck Armsbury suggests Wallace was released from jail not to actually complete a drug rehabilitation program but to work as an informant for drug detectives.

“The deal offered Charles Wallace, most likely, was to troll for more heroin users, to be an informant and possibly avoid going to prison,” Armsbury wrote.” Wacky idea? No: About 97 percent of federal drug cases are handled by guilty pleas and agreements to cooperate. Prosecutors justify routine use of informants as necessary and won’t reveal facts the public should know.” Read the full letter here.

Imbrogno and Wallace's lawyer, Jaime Hawk, have refused to comment on the case.

An audio recording of a 10-minute hearing held 15 days before Imbrogno issued her ruling is the only public information available regarding the federal magistrate's decision. Read my story on the recording here.

Triplet named new Superior Court judge

Spokane County Court Commissioner James Triplet had to keep the secret all of Sunday night: He’d been chosen by Gov. Chris Gregoire to replace Neal Rielly as Superior Court Judge.

“She swore me to secrecy until she could make the announcement today,” Triplet said of the governor. “It’s both an honor and a privilege to get this appointment.”

Gregoire picked Triplet over fellow finalists Mark Vovos, a prominent defense attorney, and former Spokane Mayor Dennis Hession.

“There was some stiff competition out there,” Triplet said. “I’ve been a fulltime court commissioner since 2004 so I feel I’m prepared for the next step in my career.”

Gregoire said in a news release that Triplet will continue to bring innovation to the court.

“As commissioner, he continually worked to provide understanding and accessibility to the general public regarding our court system,” Gregoire said in the release. “His passion and background will make him a strong addition to the Superior Court.”

Triplet — who earned his law degree in 1988 from Gonzaga University School of Law — said he’s currently working to transfer to another commissioner the cases involving 150 children in dependency and 300 family-law cases.

Earlier this year, the Washington State Bar Association named him Family Law Section Professional of the Year in recognition of his contributions to establishing a unified family court model.

Triplet said he worked for years under Rielly, who retired on Aug. 29.

“I have big shoes to try to fill,” Triplet said of Rielly. “But I think he got the better end of the deal. He’s retiring and gardening and playing golf. I have a lot of things I have to transition out of and into. That’s what I’m stressing about today.”

Vovos could not be reached late Monday for comment. Hession said he was disappointed but honored to have been considered a finalist.

“Jim Triplet is just a very good judicial officer,” Hession said. “He’s well respected and he will be an excellent Superior Court Judge.”

Convicted killer found dead in Spokane jail

A man sentenced to life in prison last week for murdering one of his accusers in a 2007 assault case was found dead in the Spokane County Jail early Monday.

Christopher H. Devlin, 57, didn’t get out of bed when served breakfast about 6:30 a.m., but a jailer thought he saw his leg move, assumed he was refusing to eat, and removed the meal, said sheriff’s Lt. Aaron Anderton.

Another employee found Devlin dead about 8:30 a.m., Anderton said.

Devlin was found face down in his bed. There were no obvious signs of violence.

Anderton said Devlin’s death appears to have been self-inflicted or from natural causes but said investigators are awaiting an autopsy. An estimated time of death will help investigators determine if procedures were followed when Devlin didn’t retrieve his breakfast at 6:30 a.m., Anderton said.

The situation is similar to the Nov. 11 death of Fredrick James Juhnke, who had died from a burst artery but lay in his cell for eight hours before jail deputies found him. Two deputies were disciplined in that case: one was fired and one resigned, including a deputy who falsified jail logs to try to hide the fact that they didn’t make half-hourly checks on inmates as required.

Read the rest of my story here.

Past coverage:

Sept. 16: Killer gets life in prison after contradictory verdict

Aug. 18: Jury convicts Devlin in Stevens County slaying

Aug. 11: Hoskins doesn’t testify; defense rests

July 26: Trial opens in murder of crime witness

Feb. 3: Prosecutor’s mix up takes death penalty off the table

Oct. 31, 2009: County balks at case transfer

May 18, 2008: Homicide victim was Chattaroy man

Killer gets life after contradictory verdict

A Stevens County man who murdered a man he was already accused of assaulting will spend the rest of his life in prison under a sentence imposed Wednesday.

A jury convicted Christopher H. Devlin, 57, of aggravated first-degree murder last month for the May 2008 slaying of Daniel Heily, who was shot to death a day before he was testify again Devlin in an assault case.

But the jury ruled Devlin was not armed with a firearm - a contradiction that Spokane County Superior Judge Jerome Leveque said may affect the case upon appeal.

“Whether or not the verdict is going to survive challenges, I don’t know,” Leveque said.

Defense lawyer Mark Vovos said Wednesday that he intends to appeal.

Heily’s family spoke at the sentencing, describing Heily as a loving man and calling Devlin a “psychopath,” “thug,” “despicable individual” and “tyrannical plague.”

The only sentences for aggravated murder in Washington are life in prison or the death penalty. Leveque ruled out the death penalty in February because prosecutors withheld from defense lawyers information about where the murder was committed.

Devlin had no prior criminal record. He remains in Spokane County Jail awaiting transport to prison.

Past coverage:

Aug. 18: Jury convicts Devlin in Stevens County slaying

Aug. 11: Hoskins doesn’t testify; defense rests

July 26: Trial opens in murder of crime witness

Feb. 3: Prosecutor’s mix up takes death penalty off the table

Oct. 31, 2009: County balks at case transfer

May 18, 2008: Homicide victim was Chattaroy man

Despite deal, murder witness doesn’t testify

COLVILLE – Spokane County prosecutors ended their first-degree murder case against Christopher H. Devlin without calling the only person they believe witnessed the killing.

Defense attorneys Mark Vovos and Roger Hunko implored Superior Court Judge Jerome Leveque to allow them to tell jurors that prosecutors Larry Steinmetz and Dale Nagy agreed to give Carl A. Hoskins a deal in exchange for testimony – that as it turns out never came.

“He’s the only guy who saw anything, supposedly,” Vovos said. “If they didn’t believe him, why would they give him the 27 months?”

Steinmetz refused to comment about why he didn’t call Hoskins as a witness in the trial against the 57-year-old Devlin, who is charged with the May 2008 slaying of 52-year-old Daniel Heily.

Read the rest of Tom Clouse’s story here.

Past coverage:

July 26: Trial opens in murder of crime witness

Feb. 3: Prosecutor’s mixup takes death penalty off table

Oct. 31, 2009: County balks at case transfer

May 18, 2008: Homicide victim was Chattaroy man

Defense calls murder case ‘classic cover-up’

COLVILLE – Defense attorney Mark Vovos on Monday told a jury of Stevens County residents that the murder trial they are about to decide amounts to a “classic cover-up” by detectives who willingly bought the shaky story of a co-defendant.

But Deputy Spokane County Prosecutor Dale Nagy said 57-year-old Christopher Devlin killed a longtime-friend, 52-year-old Daniel Heily, who was just about to testify against Devlin in a trial where he was charged with breaking into Heily’s home and assaulting him on Aug. 2, 2007.

“Mr. Devlin told people that he was looking at four to eight months in prison if he was convicted in that case,” Nagy said. “He told people, ‘Mr. Heily will be 6 six feet under before I ever go to jail.’”

Read the rest of Tom Clouse’s story here.

Past coverage:

Feb. 3: Prosecutor’s mix up takes death penalty off the table

Oct. 31, 2009: County balks at case transfer

May 18, 2008: Homicide victim was Chattaroy man

No death penalty for Deer Park man

A Deer Park man accused of murdering a witness in an assault case against him will avoid the death penalty because of prosecutors mismanaged the case, a judge ruled today.

Spokane County prosecutors failed to disclose for months pertinent statements from suspect Christopher H. Devlin’s alleged accomplice that raise questions about where the slaying occurred.

Although a legal technicality, the statements from co-defendant Carl A. Hoskins that the victim, 52-year-old Daniel D. Heily of Chattaroy, was killed in Stevens County instead of Spokane County are critical to the question of proper jurisdiction.

Devlin’s defense lawyers weren’t told of the discrepancy until months after he requested to move his case to Stevens County.

Meanwhile, the county spent tens of thousands of dollars on defense lawyers qualified for death penalty cases, and a legal debate raged over the proper county to hold the expensive trial.

Hoskin’s statements about the location of the murder could have been used to support Devlin’s change-of-venue request, lawyers Mark Vovos, of Spokane, and Roger Hunko, of Yakima, argued.

Superior Court Judge Jerome Leveque agreed, ruling this morning that the mismanagement by prosecutors was inadvertent but affected Devlin’s right to a fair trial. Devlin’s trial is set for July 19.

Prosecutors are expecting to to take longer because Vovos, a longtime trial lawyer, is involved.

“Normally, I would say 1 to 2(weeks),” said Larry Steinmetz. “With Mr. Vovos, I would say 3 to 4.”

Read the rest of my story: No death penalty in Deer Park case

Read a declaration from John Rodgers, director of the Spokane County Public Defender’s Office, here.

Past coverage: County balks at case transfer

Homicide victim was Chattaroy man

Trial set for Elton on threat charges

A man accused of threatening to kill City Council President Joe Shogan and the chairwoman of the company that owns The Spokesman-Review will go to trial in April, a judge ruled today.

David H. Elton, who turns 44 on Friday, is charged with three counts of felony harassment for alleged threats made to Shogan, Cowles Co. chairwoman Betsy Cowles, and Elton’s ex-wife, Robin Stewart.

Elton was arrested Feb. 10 after police obtained an email in which Elton said he wanted “to murder”several people, including Cowles and Stewart. Elton was suspected of threatening to kill Spokesman-Review Publisher Stacey Cowles, but that charge was dropped the day of his arrest after Cowles “expressed no fear or concern about Mr. Elton’s conduct,” according to court documents.

Elton has said the emails were a joke and that he would never hurt anyone. Spokane police Detective Corey Turman testified on Thursday that Elton said he wanted the Cowles family to sue him so he could use the evidence process to obtain company records.

But Elton, who described himself as a “hyperactive political activist,” claimed “he was not willing to commit a crime just to get them in court,” Turman said.

On Thursday, Judge Maryann Moreno, the eighth judge assigned to the case, ruled that statements Elton made to police were voluntary and can be admitted at trial.

She also ordered that sixty Spokane County residents should be called for a jury pool. Jury pools typically have about 35 people.

Elton’s defense attorney, longtime trial lawyer Mark Vovos, has filed a motion asking for the charges to be dismissed because of judicial mishandling.

Past coverage:

‘Murder’ email meant as joke, suspect says

Courthouse watch: 5.21.09

A man charged with threatening to kill city of Spokane and Cowles Co. officials and a man charged with impersonating a federal agent were among cases with hearings today in Spokane County.

Steven E. Escallier, 40, (left) is charged with criminal impersonation, first-degree attempted robbery and malicious mischief after police say he tried robbing two men who were completing a cell phone sale arranged through Craigslist in early March.

Escallier told officer he thought the men were drug dealers when he identified himself as a DEA agent and ordered one to “hand over his drugs,” according to police. He was arrested a few blocks away from the crime scene at Crestline and Empire.

David H. Elton, 43, was another defendant in court today who’s made the news.

Charged with three counts of felony harassment - threats to kill, Elton was arrested in February after several people told police of emails he’d sent threatening to kill Spokane City Council President Joe Shogan and Betsy and Stacey Cowles, who own The Spokesman-Review. Elton has said he suffers from bipolar disorder.

“Elton states that the people he has targeted are largely semi-innocent, but his hate for them is based on their greed and ignorance,” according to court papers. “He states that the only exception is his ex-wife. He writes that he dreams of killing her and burning her remains and he listens to Chopin and Van Halen.”

Judge Ellen Kalama Clark granted trial extensions for Escallier and Elton Thursday. She also allowed a special judge to be assigned to Elton’s case.

Escallier remains in Spokane County Jail; Elton, who is out on bond, is represented by private criminal defense lawyer Mark Vovos. Vovos described the case as “complex.”