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Suit Stems For PF Road Rage Incident

An Idaho man who called 911 to report a road-rage encounter with a Portland police traffic captain nearly two years ago is now suing the officer and the city of Portland. Lawyers for Nicholas Cox, 30, filed the suit Tuesday in Multnomah County Circuit Court, accusing Todd Wyatt of assault. Wyatt, 45, has since been demoted to lieutenant, partly due to his off-duty confrontation with Cox in August 2011. The suit also attempts to hold the city responsible for Wyatt's off-duty behavior. Cox contends the city failed to adequately train and discipline Wyatt at the Police Bureau for earlier “misuse of force.” The suit does not identify those cases/Maxine Bernstein, Oregonian. More here.

Question: What do you make of this lawsuit?

Idaho man sues Portland cop over Post Falls road rage incident

Here's a news item from the Associated Press: PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — An Idaho man who reported a road-rage encounter with a Portland police captain is suing the officer and city. In August 2011, Todd Wyatt waved his gun and badge in the window of his truck after he and Nicholas Cox took an Interstate 90 on-ramp near Post Falls. Wyatt says Cox cut him off. Cox says Wyatt was tailgating. The Oregonian reports (http://is.gd/ihJKTZ ) the suit filed Tuesday seeks $255,000. It says the police bureau's failure to discipline Wyatt for earlier acts likely led him to think he was above the law. Wyatt has been demoted to lieutenant, partly due to the off-duty confrontation. He was acquitted of a weapons charge in Idaho. Wyatt's attorney said his client looks forward to an airing of the facts.

Spokane Valley Solon Fills Clark Void

Matt Shea – the Road Rage Republican running for re-election in Spokane Valley – has his knickers in a knot over his opponent’s supposedly dirty campaign tactics. Or in other words … “Hello, Kettle. Pot calling.” You know, I was really bummed a few months ago. Spokane’s perennial loser candidate Barb Lampert said she wouldn’t be running for office. It was unimaginable. We were about to have the first Lampert-free ballot since the forming of the League of Nations. Prayer seemed like the only option. Is anyone out there, I beseeched the heavens, who could fill the insanity void left by a Barbless election? The heavens answered, and along came Rep. Matt Dillon, I mean Rep. Matt Shea. Sorry for the confusion. I sometimes have to remind myself. Matt Dillon was the pistol-packing marshal on the old “Gunsmoke” TV show. Shea’s that pistol-packing pickup driver who pulled his gat during a road rage incident with another motorist last November in downtown Spokane/Doug Clark, SR. More here.

Question: Which legislators or legislative candidates in North Idaho amuse you more than the others?

Read the police reports that led to Shea’s gun charge

Not shockingly, the Democrat challenging state Rep. Matt Shea's reelection bid made it extremely clear this week that she will highlight Shea's charge for carrying a loaded weapon in his pickup without a concealed weapons permit in the fall campaign. 

Amy Biviano's campaign mailed ads to voters this week that include the bold, red, all-caps headline: “lawmakers should not be law breakers.”

Both sides have at times misrepresented what's in the police reports about the road rage incident, so we present the police report, as provided to The Spokesman-Review through a public records request.


Documents:

Clark: Lawmaker Of A Higher Caliber

Posing at the Ron Paul visit to Spokane during his presidential campaign earlier this month, are Idaho Rep. Phil Hart, R-Athol, Spokane Valley legislator Matt Shea, a Paul campaign aide, and Idaho. Rep. Vito Barbieri, R-Dalton Gardens. Shea has been charged with weapons violations in an alleged road raid incident.

Nothing says “Welcome back from vacation, Doug” like a Road Rage Republican. So thanks to whoever gifted the newspaper with court documents about the firearms violations that were issued to Matt Shea after the Spokane Valley legislator’s dustup with another driver last November. Yeah, I realize this hubbub’s a bit long in the tooth. But you learn to settle for whatever you can get in this game. The sad truth is that we’ve been in a dry spell as far as ill-behaving politicians go. It’s a cyclical thing, I believe. A few years ago, for example, we were up to our fedora feather in GOP cross-dressers, toilet stall toe-tappers and city council psychos. It was a glorious time to be a columnist. Then something really disturbing happened: Many of our elected officials started behaving responsibly. Too many, if you ask me/Doug Clark, SR. More here.

Thoughts?

Driver brandishes gun; more mayhem

It has been a busy couple of days for police in Spokane Valley. On Wednesday a driver called police to report that another driver had nearly run him off the road and waved a handgun in the air near Trent and Argonne. Officers were able to located the other driver and arrested Jarred Woods, 30, for three counts of intimidation with a firearm. Reporter Meghann Cuniff has more details here.

On Monday police responded to a forgery call at a pharmacy in the 15700 block of East Broadway Road and ended up arresting two people for a combined 11 felonies. The two had allegedly forged prescriptions for Oxycodone. Nicole Wright, 27, and Coby Adams, 33, were both arrested on multiple charges of prescription fraud and second-degree possession of stolen property. Meghann has more details here.

Gunman arrested for road rage encounter

A man threatened three people with a gun during a road rage incident on Wednesday, police said today.

Jarred Woods, 30, was contacted by a Spokane County sheriff's deputy after his alleged victims provided 911 dispatch with his license plate number.

The victims, a man and two juvenile females, said they were driving south on Argonne Road near Wellesley Avenue when they passed Woods' vehicle and he swerved to the left, causing them to nearly swerve into oncoming traffic, according to the sheriff's office.

Woods then displayed a handgun and yelled at the victims as they called 911, the sheriff's office said.

Woods has a concealed weapons permit.

A deputy called his phone after running his license plate number and located him in the area of Argonne and Trent Avenue. He was contacted there and first said he only kept the gun in his trunk, but then admitted it to pointing it at the occupants of another vehicle because he feared the driver, according to the sheriffs office.

A .40 caliber Baretta handgun was seized from the trunk of Woods' vehicle. He was arrested on three counts of intimidation with a firearm.
  

Man gets 8-18 years for road rage death

A North Idaho man who fatally ran over a woman during a 2006 road rage incident was sentenced Monday to 18 years in prison.

 Jonathan Wade Ellington, 51, had been serving a 25-year sentence when the Idaho Supreme Court overturned his convictions last May because of problems with his first trial.

Under the sentence imposed Monday by Kootenai County Judge John Luster, Ellington will be eligible for parole after eight years and credited for time already spent in custody, according to the Associated Press.

A jury convicted Ellington Jan. 31 of second-degree murder for the death of Vonnette Larsen and two counts of aggravated battery for ramming her daughters’ vehicle.

The fatal encounter began when Ellington punched Larsen’s daughters’ car window and the women, and eventually their parents, gave chase at about 90 mph.

Vonnette Larsen's husband fired a .44 Magnum pistol at Ellington seconds before she was run over.

According to the Coeur d'Alene Press, Luster said “poor decisions” were made “across the board” by all the parties involved in the incident.

“I’ll never be able to make sense of the behaviors of that day,” Luster said.

He said the Larsens “clearly” share in the responsibility Vonnette Larsen’s death, even though they have denied so.

Man guilty in road rage murder re-trial

A jury today convicted a North Idaho man of second-degree murder for fatally running over a woman during a 2006 road rage incident with her husband and two daughters.

Jonathan Wade Ellington, 51, has already served six years in prison for the Jan. 1, 2006, incident but was released last year after the Idaho Supreme Court overturned his convictions because of problems with his first trial.

Judge John Luster today allowed him to stay out of jail until his new sentencing, which is scheduled for March 26.

Read the rest of my story here.

Deputy Prosecutor Luke Malek, who is running for the Idaho state Legislature, congratulated his office in a Facebook post: “8 months after a scathing, dicta-filled opinion, professionalism and justice prevail. Congratulations to Art Verharen and Barry McHugh for courage in the face of populist ridicule.”

Past coverage:

May 27: Idaho Supreme Court overturns Ellington murder conviction

Ellington: A Difference Of 6 Years

Jonathan Wade Ellington and his girlfriend leave Kootenai County District Court during a break in the opening day of his murder trial on Thursday for a 2006 road rage incident. (SR photo: Meghann Cuniff)

DFO: SR buddy Meghann Cuniff is covering the retrial of Jonathan Wade Ellington in a 2006 road rage death on Scarcello Road in Twin Falls area. She provides a link to her Sirens & Gavels blog that shows the difference between Ellington now and during trial almost 6 years ago here.

2nd trial begins in ‘06 road rage death

Jonathan Wade Ellington and his girlfriend leave Kootenai County District Court during a break in the opening day of his trial Thursday. (SRPhoto/Meghann Cuniff) Ellington is pictured below in 2006.

Prosecutors say he used his vehicle as a weapon against two sisters and their mother in an angry road encounter fueled by his own rage.

But Jonathan Wade Ellington’s lawyers told jurors at the opening day of his murder trial Thursday that the North Idaho man was simply trying to get away from gunfire when he ran over and killed Vonnette Larsen on Jan. 1, 2006.

“It’s a tragedy, but it’s not a crime,” said John Adams, head of the Kootenai County Public Defender’s Office.

Read the rest of my story here.

Ruling clears way for 2nd road rage trial

A judge this morning refused to dismiss murder charges against a North Idaho man because of a last-minute evidence issue in his 2006 road-rage case, clearing the way for a second trial.

Jonathan Wade Ellington (pictured) was imprisoned for four years  on a murder conviction that was overturned because the Idaho Supreme Court ruled a state trooper lied at the first trial in 2006.

Opening statements in his second trial are expected Thursday morning. A jury is being selected today in Judge John Luster's courtroom at the Kootenai County Courthouse in Coeur d'Alene.

Ellington has been free since early November on a $50,000 property-backed bond after returning to Kootenai County from a prison near Boise.

Ellington is accused of running over Vonnette Lee Larsen, 41, in 2006 during a fit of road rage north of Coeur d’Alene. Larsen and her husband were pursuing Ellington after their daughters told them he’d punched their windshield, and at one point before the fatal crash Joel Larsen fired a rifle at Ellington.

When Ellington was sentenced in December 2006, his girlfriend, Ann Thomas, vowed to appeal. “Eventually, it’ll get to a real court,” Thomas said.  Ellington called the case against him “mind-boggling.” “I don’t understand this – I never will,” he said. Read that story here.

The case is being prosecuted by Barry McHugh and Art Verharen. Ellington is represented by John Adams and Ann Taylor.

I'll be covering the trial. Look for updates here and on my Twitter page throughout the opening day.

More past coverage:

Sept. 8, 2006: Ellington found guilty

Aug. 25, 2006: Daughter describes mother's death

Cop arraigned in road rage gun case

A Portland police captain accused of brandishing a gun during a road rage incident on Interstate 90 in Post Falls acted arrogantly to state troopers as if he thought “I'm a cop and it's no big deal,” according to a police report recently unsealed in Kootenai County.

Todd Loren Wyatt, 43, pleaded not guilty Friday through his attorney in Kootenai County District Court to exhibition of a deadly weapon, a misdemeanor, for the alleged incident on Aug. 13. Trial is scheduled for Feb. 6.

A 20-year police veteran, Wyatt was off duty when he was stopped on I-90 at the Freya Street exit in Spokane by Washington State Patrol troopers after his alleged victim called from the Post Falls area stayed on the phone with dispatchers describing Wyatt's blue Ford F-150.

WSP Trooper Greg Birkeland said Wyatt asked to speak to him away from his wife and children, and Birkeland asked “what difference it would make talking in front of them compared to his prior actions in front of them,” according to the report.

“Mr. Wyatt's response to him was, 'All right, I hear your attitude,'” according to the report. “Trooper Birkeland said he thought Mr. Wyatt showed lack of common sense and good judgment. He was arrogant and cocky and played the situation down, not realizing the severity of what he had done.”

Another trooper told investigators he thought Watt's attitude was that of “I'm a cop and it's no big deal,” according to the report.

Wyatt's lawyer, Gary Amendola, said Wyatt disputes the charge..

“I'll tell you right now, Capt. Wyatt did not point his gun at anyone,” Amendola said. Amendola said Wyatt was “concerned for the safety of his family” because the alleged victim appeared to be trying to cause a crash.

Wyatt, who was with his wife, 16-year-old daughter and 14-year-old son, when he was stopped in August told troopers there was a road rage incident “and he did in fact display his weapon in a holster along with his service badge,” according to an Idaho State Police report. “It was reported the gun was never pointed at the reporting party.”

Wyatt's wife told troopers she thought “those people were going to kill us.”

Wyatt was not arrested. He was removed from his position as head of the Portland Police Bureau traffic division when the investigation opened and was placed on paid administrative leave after he was formally charged last month, The Oregonian reports.

The alleged victim, Nicholas James Cox, 28, told police he was driving westbound on Interstate 90 behind Wyatt's Oregon-plated pickup when he passed the pickup because it was driving slowly.

Cox said the pickup started tailgating and trying to pull up beside him before the driver pointed a gun at Cox and his wife.

“Mr. Cox said he did not wish to pursue charges but wanted the driver to be aware of the seriousness of the offense,” according to the report. But Cox later changed his mind. He told police he'd spoken with his father-in-law, who is retired from the Seattle Police Department, and realized the severity of the incident.

“Mr. Cox told me he could not drive past where the incident happened without getting a sick feeling in his stomach,” according to the report, prepared by Idaho State Police Trooper Kevin White. “He also said when he sees a pickup that looks like the one the suspect was driving, he gets nervous until he sees the state of the plate.”

“Mr. Cox said when he first saw the pickup tailgating, he thought it was just some crazy guy,”  the report continues. “When he saw the pistol, he knew it was more than some crazy guy.”

Wyatt was on vacation from the Portland Police Bureau when the incident occurred.

Wyatt told police Cox was driving his Honda dangerously and appeared to be trying to cause a crash after passing him.

Wyatt said the driver and passenger “were young and possibly gang members” and he showed them his police badge in hopes they would leave him alone. When they didn't, he held up his holstered gun behind his badge, according to a report.

“He indicated once the problem was solved and the Honda quit trying to cause a crash, he put his badge and gun away,” according to the report.

ISP Responds To Ellington Decision

On Friday, news broke that the Idaho Supreme Court had thrown out a second-degree murder conviction of a North Idaho man, citing prosecutorial misconduct and the likelihood that an Idaho State Police officer committed perjury during the 2006 trial. Moments ago, the ISP issued this statement about the Jonathan W. Ellington case: “The Idaho State Police is fully aware of the significant issues involved with this case.  As is standard procedure, the ISP has started an Administrative Investigation into the issues identified by the Idaho Supreme Court.  The ISP regards this as a serious matter and fully intends to complete a thorough investigation.  The involved employee has been placed on administrative leave with pay, and since this investigation involves a current employee in a personnel matter, the ISP will not be able comment further.” You can read about the Supreme Court decision re: the New Year's Day 2006 road rage tragedy that ended in the death of a local woman here.

Murder conviction tossed in ‘06 road rage

BOISE – State Supreme Court justices have thrown out the second-degree murder conviction of a North Idaho man, citing prosecutorial misconduct and the likelihood that an Idaho State Police officer committed perjury during the 2006 trial.

Jonathan Wade Ellington, of Hayden, was sentenced to 25 years for second-degree murder and 15 years each on two counts of aggravated battery charges for running over a woman during what was described as a road-rage encounter on New Year’s Day 2006.

But Friday, Idaho’s high court unanimously ruled Ellington should get a new trial. In the 32-page ruling, the justices wrote the Kootenai County prosecutor engaged in misconduct during the trial, in part by engaging in improper questioning meant to turn the jury against Ellington.

Read the rest of the Associated Press story here.

When Ellington was sentenced in December 2006, his girlfriend, Ann Thomas, vowed to appeal. “Eventually, it’ll get to a real court,” Thomas said.  Ellington called the case against him “mind-boggling.” “I don’t understand this – I never will,” he said. Read that story here.

Other past coverage:

Sept. 8, 2006: Ellington found guilty

Aug. 25, 2006: Daughter describes mother's death

Cops: Road rage with gun yields heroin

A convicted felon is accused of brandishing a gun during a road rage incident on U.S. Highway 395 that led to the discovery of heroin.

Brian L. Sellers, 34, is in jail on felony assault, gun and drug charges after the alleged victims called police about 3:45 p.m. May 3 and said a man in a Toyota was pointing a silver handgun at them while following too close on the highway near Wild Rose Road. Sellers appeared in court Wednesday after police recommended further charges.

The caller said the Toyota was following them at 90 mph and was just inches from their rear bumper. Two children ages 1 and 2 were in the back of the caller's vehicle, police said.

A Washington State Patrol trooper and a Spokane County sheriff's deputy stopped Sellers' car and arrest him and a passenger, Michael George Swan, 41.

Sellers told police about the gun, which they found sitting on the passenger-side floorboard with a loaded magazine next to it.

Sellers is on Department of Corrections probation and has several felony convictions, including first-degree theft and forgery, which prohibit him from possessing weapons.

The victim said she saw the Toyota driving erratically and trying to pass her before the driver exited and tried to stop her. She drove away, but Sellers followed and motioned with his gun for her to pull over, according to court documents.

Police found a baggie of methamphetamine in Seller's 2002 Toyota Tundra.

A search with a K-9, Jet, revealed a digital scale with 84.6 grams of black tar heroin.

Biker shoots to stop driver; driver arrested

An alleged road rage incident between a driver and motorcyclist Sunday in North Idaho led to the arrest of a 44-year-old Athol man after the biker fire a shot at him.

Keith W. Williams is charged with battery and aggravated assault after a man identified in court documents as Thomas Helton told police he had to fire a small handgun at Williams’ front car tire to stop an attack about 4 p.m.

Witnesses in the area of U.S Highway 95 and Neider Avenue told police that Williams punched Helton in the head as they were stopped at a light, then drove northbound toward Helton and his motorcycle, police said.

Helton fired one round into Williams’ car’s front tire. Williams is charged with aggravated assault for allegedly using his vehicle as a weapon. He’s out of Kootenai County Jail on bond.

Witnesses to the incident are asked to call Coeur d’Alene police at (208) 769-2320.

Road Rage Victim Lies Re: Missing Legs

The victim of a road rage incident last week in Spokane misstated the circumstances that led to both his legs being partially amputated in a car crash last winter. On June 3 Cody Balka participated in an interview in the wake of a road rage incident where another driver - Scott Cramer - was tailgating his car and flipping him off as he was driving along the freeway. Cramer reportedly got out of his car and attempted to punch Balka. He was later arrested by Spokane Police. Balka, however, made misstatements about another driver being involved in the crash that took both of his legs Dec. 28, 2009/Sally Showman, KXLY. More here.

Question: Why would a person lie about something like the crash in which he lost his legs, when the story was easy to check out?

Court upholds ‘road rage’ sentencing

By Kevin Graman

The state Court of Appeals let stand the sentencing condition imposed on a Spokane motorist who assaulted a bicyclist during a road rage incident two years ago – that he keep his anger in check.

When a jury convicted Dylan T. Anstrom, 32, of second-degree malicious mischief and fourth-degree assault last year, Spokane County Superior Court Judge Tari Eitzen gave him two years’ probation, provided that he had no further road rage incidents.

Anstrom appealed, saying the condition violated his due process rights. This week, the Court of Appeals for Division III refused to review his appeal because he could not show that “he has been harmed by the condition in any way.”

In July 2008, Anstrom was driving near the Centennial Trail when he drove up behind two bicyclists and started honking his horn before speeding past them, nearly hitting one of them.

When Anstrom stopped at a traffic light one of the bicyclists rode up and told Anstrom he had nearly caused a serious accident, according to court documents.

Enraged and believing the bicyclist had damaged his car, Anstrom chased the bicyclist through a nearby parking lot. Unable to catch the first bicyclist, Anstrom stopped the second bicyclist and demanded to know the name of the first.

When the second bicyclist refused to give him the name, Anstrom knocked him off his bicycle, kicked him, punched him, threw the bicycle on top of the cyclist and then threw the bicycle against a telephone pole, according to court documents .

Reward offered in road rage assault

The mystery of the road rage van continues.

Spokane County Sheriff’s detectives have been trying to track down the driver of a van who faces a vehicular assault charge for allegedly dragging a motorcyclist during a fight on North Division Street on Aug. 14.

Detectives found the van’s previous owner, a Spokane man, who said he sold the vehicle to a man he thought lived in Cheney, said Sgt. Dave Reagan.

The van’s current license plate is Washington plate 102YVY, but it’s registered to a Post Falls church detectives don’t believe exists, Butch Stephen’s Organizational Church, Reagan said.

Now Crime Stoppers is offering a reward for information that solves the crime. “It would appear on it’s face that the van has been fraudulently registered, that’s why we’re having trouble tracking it down,” Reagan said. “We need help.”

The incident began when the van cut off a motorcycle while southbound on Newport Highway, according to the Sheriff’s Office

The motorcyclist and his passenger eventually parked when traffic was backed up on North Division and smashed out a side window on the van with his helmet before the van backed over the driver, dragging him about 20 feet.

The van is described as a 1986 full-size black and silver Chevrolet “beater” with a left rear side sanded down and primered. Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at (509) 327-5111 or submit tips online at www.crimestoppersinlandnorthwest.org.

Road Rage: Axman Threatens Driver

As first reported in Scanner Traffic Wednesday, a local driver was threatened by another motorist with dark-colored hatchet about 3 o’clock at Ragan Equipment, 320 W. Hanley. Seems John Brand cut Road Rager off when a snow berm caused two lanes of traffic to abruptly become one at Kathleen and Government Way. Next thing John knew, Road Rager, in a white Ford Expedition, was on his tail, flipping him off and brandishing a rusty black knife, which the man drew across his throat while he pointed at him. Road Rager followed John to Ragan Equipment, where he jumped out the car, wielding a hatchet in a threatening manner while approaching within 20 feet. At that point, trucker George Williams stepped between the two and told the man to “chill out.” Road Rager left as soon as he saw Randy Ragan of Ragan Equipment dialing 911. Be careful out there.