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Robber gets 41 years for ‘92 murder

A serial bank robber and protected federal witness has been sentenced to 41 years in prison for the 1992 murder of a Spokane Valley furniture store owner.

Patrick Kevin Gibson, 60, was convicted of first-degree murder of the Nov. 7, 1992, shooting death of Brian Cole, 48, at Cole's Furniture Store on East Sprague Avenue in July after a bench trial before Superior Court Judge Tari Eitzen.

Cole was killed during a botched robbery after the gunman said he was willing to hurt Cole's wife, who was in a scooter and witnessed the murder.

The crime went unsolved for 19 years before DNA from a fake beard left at the crime scene prompted detectives to arrest Gibson, who served 12 years in federal prison for a string of bank robberies that began in 1992.

He enrolled in the federal witness protection program after helping authorities convict his former cellmate of murdering a mother and her two children in Iowa in the early 1990s. That man, Dustin Honken, is now on federal death row.

Gibson also was convicted of robbing convenience stores and raping clerks in the late 1970s, about the same time he was shot in the face by a law enforcement official during a chase in Utah.

Gibson testified a partner in his bank robberies must have reused the beard, but Eitzen concluded he was the killer and had also robbed a children's store in Coeur d'Alene hours before the murder.

The trial began in May but was delayed when prosecutors learned “America’s Most Wanted” used the hat worn by the killer when re-enacting the murder in a 1993 episode. The trial resumed after authorities tested DNA samples from host John Walsh, a retired sheriff's detective and the actor who played the killer, Spokane County native Trevor St. John.

Eitzen sentenced Gibson on Friday to 493 months in prison. His lawyers have appealed his conviction.

Past coverage:

July 20: Gibson's bravado as robber didn't help

Man, 78, sent to prison for pot dealing

A 78-year-old man who allowed drug traffickers to use his property just south of the Canadian border in Ferry County will spend 2 1/2 years in federal prison, a judge ruled Thursday.

Alvin Oliver Shields had 700 pounds of marijuana on his property when federal agents searched it in 2009. His lawyer, Jeffry Finer, said he retired from drug trafficking two years before a grand jury indicted him in September.

Shields and his wife live in Lebanon, Ore. His criminal history includes only a conviction for petty larceny in 1958.

Finer described him in court documents as a good humored man with poor hearing and early signs of dementia. He graduated high school in the 1950s but can't remember the year. He also couldn't initially remember the name of his first wife.

"Mr. Shields was ultimately able to provide it to Probation when he noticed it was tattooed on his left arm," Finer wrote.

Prosecutors say Shields lived in Canada for 30 years. Federal agents began investigating Shields in 2003 after a Border Patrol agent found four duffel bags with 140 pounds of marijuana after four people ran from Fourth of July Creek Road, west of Danville, into Canada.

The agent then saw Shields "driving slowly in a van with the rear cargo doors propped open," according to a plea agreement.

Then in 2008, a multi-agency investigation determined Shields was letting marijuana traffickers in Canada transport pot to his property, where it was then taken to Spokane and stored for distribution by U.S. drug traffickers.

Shields pleaded guilty in May to money laundering, structuring financial transactions to avoid reporting requirements, conspiracy to distribute 1,000 kilograms or more of marijuana (dating back to 2003) and three counts of failure to file income tax returns.

He was sentenced Thursday in Spokane by U.S. District Judge Rosanna Peterson to 30 months in prison followed by five years of probation. The court is recommending he be housed at the federal prison in Sheridan, Ore., to allow his wife, whom Finer described as "aged and unwell," to visit.

Finer said a short incarceration period "will promote respect for the law and provide general deterrence to others who, like Mr. Shields, may find criminal opportunity in owning property alongside the border with Canada."

Idaho killer returns to prison for assault

A convicted killer who left prison in 2008 is headed back there after a jury in southwest Idaho convicted him of assaulting a family member with a large knife.

Donald Leonard Houser, 39, was living in Plummer in 1995 when he shot his former girlfriend, Angela LeSarte, to death in front of Bobbie's Bar in Plummer.

LeSarte's father is former longtime Coeur d’Alene Tribal Chairman Bernard LeSarte. She was the mother of four children.

Houser was sentenced to 15 years in prison in February 1996 for second-degree murder and possession of a firearm during a crime of violence. He began his five-year probation period on Oct. 30, 2008, and worked part-time on a ranch in Washington County and at a hardware store in Weiser, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office. He started working full-time as a self-employed mechanic in November 2010.

Houser was arrested on Aug. 22 for aggravated assault. He was sentenced in April to two to three years in state prison. He was sentenced today to two years in federal prison for violating his probation on the murder conviction. One year of his federal sentence will run concurrent to the state sentence, the other will run consecutive, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Woman gets 18 1/2 years for murder

The woman convicted of killing a Spokane man in December has been sentenced to 18 ½ years in prison.

Melinda R. Barrera, 32, was convicted last month of killing Robert A. Nelson following a bizarre altercation where Barrera was struck in the face with a cell phone and her boyfriend struck Nelson with a baseball bat.

The same jury acquitted 22-year-old David C. McLaughlin of killing or assaulting Nelson but found that Barrera was guilty of second-degree murder after she admitted firing the shot that killed Nelson.

Superior Court Judge Tari Eitzen sentenced Barrera to a total of 224 months in prison with credit for 239 days already served in the Spokane County Jail.

McLaughlin was sentenced recently to a year in prison for felony drug possession.

Past coverage:

July 5: Couple convicted, aquitted in murder

June 22: Trial starts for couple in shooting death

May 8: Murder suspect now facing meth charges

Dec. 10: Shooting suspect recalls chaos

Taco truck protestor gets 7 years for guns

A Whitman County man who bragged about being involved with racist taco-truck protests in Kootenai County has been sentenced to seven years in federal prison for unlawful gun possession.

Jeremiah Daniel "J.D." Hop's lawyer, Roger Peven, asked for him to receive between 15 and 21 months in prison, according to court documents, but U.S. District Judge Robert Whaley rejected that request on Wednesday.

Hop, 31, is to be on probation for three years after his release.

Hop was arrested during an FBI investigation April 20, 2011, for allegedly possessing an Izhmash 12-gauge semi-automatic shotgun on March 25.

His brother, Michael Hop, said he was set up by an FBI informant who supplied the shotgun after suggesting they go shooting.

Federal agents searched his home in Pullman on April 20 and seized that shotgun, then searched a property in Colton and seized four rifles, a shotgun and more than 150 rounds of ammunition.

Authorities say Hop had talked of targeting abortion clinics.

Hop was convicted in California of third-degree rape of a child in 2005, a felony that prohibits him from possessing firearms or ammunition. The conviction stemmed from a consensual relationship with a girl who was 14 when she first met Hop. She wrote a letter that urged Whaley to keep him out of jail.

"I strongly believe he is NOT a danger to society," the woman, now 23, wrote. "At the time I was being physically and mentally abused, he was my lifesaver."

Other friends and family wrote letters supporting Hop, including the mother of his 6-year-old son.

Edwards arrestee appeals sentence

A Spokane methamphetamine dealer ordered to spend 15 years in federal prison is trying to get his sentence overturned, in part because it was investigated by a now-fired Spokane police officer.

David Brian Hill’s request is the latest twist in an investigation into potentially questionable partnerships between Spokane County law enforcement officers and local bail bondsmen and bounty hunters.

The investigation restarted earlier this year, and two Washington State Patrol employees, Dave Bolton and Jeff Thoet, spent six weeks on paid leave amid possible criminal allegations. The two returned to work late last month, but the investigation into their work with unlicensed bounty hunter Dennis Kariores is ongoing.

Read the rest of my story here.

Past coverage:

Jan 29: Officer's ruse with bounty hunter, fugitive led to suspension

Home-invasion robber gets 10 years

A robber who fled a north Spokane home after being struck with a sword has been sentenced to nearly 11 years in prison.

Nathan T. McDaniels, 28, alias Gardner, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit first-degree burglary and two counts of first-degree robbery and was sentenced by Superior Court Judge Greg Sypolt to 129 months, according to court records.

McDaniels was arrested in May for a robbery  in the 9600 block of North Alpine Court, as was Nathan W. Day, 21.

Joshua Clint Epperson, 32, a level 3 sex offender, was arrested later in May. Erik J. Zacher, 26, was arrested in July.

The men are accused of entering the home about 2:45 a.m. on May 2, binding residents with zip ties and pistol whipping. The attackers asked about a safe and stolen several items. Police found a stolen Wii console and baggies of methamphetamine when they arrested Day at a home in the 900 block of East Wabash Avenue. They say he had a stolen handgun with him that may have been used in the robberies.

One resident told police four men knocked on the door and he let McDaniels in to use the bathroom. One of the men asked him if he wanted to smoke meth, and the man said he walked the men downstairs to wake up his girlfriend. That's when Day displayed the gun and the man was bound with zip ties as others stole items from the home, court documents say.

Court overturns Idaho man’s convictions

BOISE - A Kootenai County man has been cleared of three felony charges, after the Idaho Court of Appeals ruled a jury didn’t have sufficient evidence to conclude he had a gun when he angrily confronted friends of his ex-girlfriend in 2010 after vandalizing their home.

David Loren Curry was convicted of burglary, aggravated assault and unlawful possession of a firearm, with a sentence enhancement added for being a persistent violator; the burglary charge was based on the argument that he entered a garage with the intent of threatening the occupants with a deadly weapon.

Read the rest of Betsy Z. Russell's story here.

Gun thief gets more time than murderer

A Stevens County judge on Tuesday sentenced a convicted gun thief to 125 years in prison — a term that’s about 100 years longer than the sentences handed down to three others for a murder committed using one of the stolen guns.

Superior Court Judge Pat Monasmith sentenced convicted felon Christopher G. Nichols, 27, to 125 years in prison, despite the fact that he had no role in the 2011 killing of Colville resident Gordon Feist.

Nichols wept, Stevens County Prosecutor Tim Rasmussen said.

Read the rest of Tom Clouse's story here.

Past coverage:

March 8, 2012: 2 men get 25+ years in Colville murder

Sept. 26: Two more charged in Stevens County homcide

Aug. 2: Murder suspect may claim insanity

July 21: Police think botched theft led to murder near Colville

July 20: Slaying near Colville baffles neighbors

Woman sentenced for fatal hit and run

A 21-year-old woman who drove away after fatally striking a Spokane pedestrian earlier this year has been sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison.

Hannah K. Hahn is to serve 31 months behind bars with credit for 180 days already served. She pleaded guilty Friday to vehicular homicide for a crash in January that killed Dennis Burgess, 47.

Police say Hahn smelled of alcohol and had “some small bottles of alcohol” on her when they stopped a 1999 Dodge Durango as it sped north on Market near Hawthorne Road about 2:17 a.m.

Hahn told them she thought she hit someone with her car. The SUV's windshield was broken and its front end and hood were damaged.

Police found Burgess unconscious in the street near Providence and Market with severe head trauma. He was pronounced dead at a hospital. He was a father of three and worked as a carpenter and landscaper.

In addition to 31 months in prison, Hahn is to pay $4,362 restitution.

Past coverage

Jan. 30: Patrols follow pedestrian-auto crashes

Man gets 15 years for child sex abuse

A Wenatchee man who sexually abused a 6-year-old girl and broadcasted it live on the Internet has been sentenced in Spokane to 15 years in federal prison.

Scott J. Martin, 49, abused the girl at the direction of Christian Webb, a former Minot, North Dakota, school district employee who used a school-assigned Internet connection to help facilitate the crimes. Webb was sentenced in May 2011 to 12 years in prison.

News reports say he regularly contacted pedophiles through Internet chat and persuaded them to sexually abuse children while he watched through a web cam. Webb had 75 webcam videos depicting the live sexual abuse of children when he was arrested.

His case led to the arrest of six people, including Martin, in Washington, Kansas, Ohio, Louisiana and Texas, as well as the rescue of eight children from abuse, according to the Minot Daily News.

Martin's lawyer described him as a man with cerebral palsy who is easily influenced by others. He met his wife through a 1-900 number.

"His repeated contact with her through that phone number ultimately led to the development of their relationship and their marriage. Discovery indicates that the computer and the internet were significant parts of both of their lives," Martin's lawyer wrote in a sentencing memorandum. "Based on his deference to others, and the prevalence of the computer and use thereof in the home, Mr. Martin more easily succumbed to Mr. Webb’s requests than might otherwise have been the case."

Martin was sentenced last week in U.S. District Court last week after pleading guilty to production of child pornography/use of a child to transmit live images of abuse. He'll be on probation for 15 years after his release.

Pot thief shot in head sent to prison

A Spokane man who was shot in the head while trying to steal marijuana plants from a home last fall has sentenced to prison.

Joseph A. Gariepy, 41, was shot by Darcee Kapfer as he and Raymond Paul Bates, 49, tried to steal marijuana plants from Kapfer's home at 1023 E. Gordon Ave. on Oct. 3. He was sentenced to more than 7 years in prison last week after pleading guilty to eight felonies.

Kapfer, who was legally allowed to possess the plants because of a state authorization card, is not facing charges. She did not notify police about the shooing but said in an interview with detectives that she shot the would-be thief after he grabbed a piece of wood. Kapfer reportedly told police, “I'm pretty sure I hit him. I'm a pretty good shot.”

Bates was arrested Oct. 3 with a gunshot wound to his head; a tipster later told police she'd removed a bullet from Gariepy's head shortly after the shooting.

Police compared Gariepy's DNA to blood stains found in the getaway car, a brown 1976 Ford Courier truck located near an alley in the 4500 block of North Division Street three days after the shooting.

Officers noted a wound on Gariepy's right ear consistent with a bullet when he was arrested Oct. 27.

Gariepy was sentenced last week to 87 months in prison after pleading guilty to second-degree burglary, second-degree robbery, residential burglary, second-degree theft, first-degree unlawful possession of a firearm, possession of an unlawful firearm, first-degree possession of stolen property and second-degree malicious mischief.  He is a repeat offender suspect with a 26-year criminal history, according to Crime Stoppers.

Bates was sentenced in December to 33 months in prison after pleading guilty to possession of a controlled substance, second-degree robbery and residential burglary.

Crime Stoppers seeks drug rehab quitter

A man arrested for breaking into a car in downtown Spokane last summer is wanted by Crime Stoppers for dropping out of drug addiction treatment.

Glen Wayne O'Brien, 35, was jailed earlier this year for failing to comply with a sentence for a felony drug case that requires him to complete intensive treatment.

In a letter to a judge in March, O'Brien asked for a second chance.

"I am struggling with my addiction and it is very hard, but I truly want to get clean so I can move on to a better life," O'Brien wrote.

O'Brien got that chance, but he left rehab July 2 and hasn't been seen since, according to court documents.

O'Brien was in drug rehab after pleading guilty to possession of a controlled substance last ear. He was arrested in June 2011 after several people saw him breaking into a car in downtown Spokane.

O'Brien is considered by police to be a repeat offender. His 12-year criminal history includes convictions for forgery, stolen property, drugs, theft and vehicle theft.

Anyone with information is asked on his current location is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS or submit tips online.

Tipsters do not have to give their names to receive a reward but should leave a code name or number.

Plea hinges on murder trial testimony

A 20-year-old woman originally charged with a death penalty eligible crime for the brutal murder of a Spokane man faces 6 1/2 to 8 1/2 years in prison if she follows a plea agreement approved today.

Breeanna C. Sims (pictured left) is to testify at the trial of accused killer Taylor J. Wolf (pictured right), which is scheduled to begin Aug. 20.

Sims, who was involved in a home-invasion robbery with her mother in 2009, pleaded guilty today to first-degree kidnapping with a firearm. Her plea agreement is sealed and hinges on her future testimony.

Spokane County Superior Court Judge Sam Cozza today approved the plea deal negotiated by Deputy Prosecutor Mark Cipolla and Deputy Public Defender Tom Trageser. Sims backed out of a potential plea in May.

Sims' brother, Justice E.D. Sims (pictured left), was sentenced in March to about 33 years in prison for first-degree murder and kidnapping.

The three are accused of the brutal torture slaying of Nicholas J. Thoreson (pictured right), who was found dead in the trunk of his burning Thunderbird on Forker Road April 13, 2011.

Detectives say Wolf made incriminating statements to Britney Bjork, girlfriend of jailed Hells Angel Ricky Jenks, just after his arrest in April, leading them to charge her with conspiracy to commit perjury, rendering criminal assistance and arson. Bjork is scheduled to begin trial Sept. 4.

Detectives say Wolf told Bjork he was going to shoot Thoreson but “I couldn’t do it, so me and Justice did it together,” according to court documents, which cite recorded jailhouse phone conversations. “But we had gloves on and stuff.”

All three suspects were charged with aggravated first-degree murder. The charge is eligible for the death penalty, but prosecutors said from the beginning they would not be seeking that.

Justice Sims is serving his sentence at Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla. Breeanna Sims will stay at the Spokane County Jail without bail. Her sentencing has not yet been scheduled as prosecutors await Wolf's trial.

Thoreson's family and friends attended Sims plea hearing today, including his girlfriend and toddler son.

Past coverage:

Dec. 6: Murder suspect's love letters seized

May 20, 2011: Sibling murder suspects plead not guilty

May 3, 2011: Homicide victim remembered in obituary

April 21, 2011: New details released in Forker Road homicide

Man in Facebook robbery gets 15 years

A 23-year-old man who robbed a boy lured to Spokane through Facebook avoid a life prison sentence recently when a judge approved a plea deal.

David Michael Martinez was sentenced to 15 years in prison for first-degree unlawful possession of a firearm and third-degree assault. He was arrested in June 2011 for first-degree robbery and conspiracy to commit first-degree robbery and faced life in prison without the possibility of parole under Washington's three-strikes law.

Martinez has previous convictions for attempted second-degree robbery and second-degree assault, which are strike offenses. He also has convictions for attempting to elude police.

His lawyer prepared a mitigation package, and prosecutors agreed to reduce the charges "given the difficult circumstances of defendant's childhood upbringing," according to court documents.

Spokane County Superior Court Judge Sam Cozza approved the 180-month sentence on Thursday, which is exceptionally high for the gun and assault convictions.

Martinez admitted to robbing a Post Falls boy who arranged to meet a girl through Facebook.

The victim said he agreed to meet the girl at Corbin Park with $75, but when he got in her Chevy Tahoe, two men later identified as Martinez and Brendan T. Dalla pointed handguns at him and demanded his money, according to court documents.

Dalla was sentenced in November to four years in prison for second-degree robbery. The girl was charged as an adult, but her charges later were moved to juvenile court.

Woman gets 10 years for shooting

A woman who shot a man three times after he accidentally hit her with a half-pint bottle has been sentenced to 10 years in federal prison.

Leona Sutton, 34, is a methamphetamine addict who federal prosecutors say is very dangerous.

"Defendant's livelihood has been a criminal one. Daily use of methamphetamine and distributing it to feed the habit," according to a sentencing memorandum prepared by the U.S. Attorney's Office. "The public is not safe when she consumes alcohol or methamphetamine. It also is not safe when she has access to a firearm."

Sutton shot the man, with whom she frequently used meth, on Oct. 2 with a .22 caliber rifle in Keller, Wash., on the Colville Indian Reservation.

Family told the FBI she had a history of violence and frequently tried to coerce her ex-boyfriend into assaulting people" and "routinely told him that she wanted "to kick someone's ass," prosecutors wrote.

U.S. District Judge Frem Nielsen on Thursday sentenced Sutton to 120 months and 1 day in prison for discharging a firearm during a crime of violence and assault with a dangerous weapon, followed by three years of probation. She also is to pay $5,796.24 restitution. Nielsen recommended she undergo treatment for drug addiction while in prison.

Mike Ormsby, U.S. Attorney in Eastern Washington, praised the sentence in a prepared statement.

"Crimes of violence will not be tolerated in the Eastern District of Washington, particularly those crimes occurring on Tribal lands," Ormsby said. "The Sutton case is yet another example of the United States Attorney's Office’s commitment to prosecute vigorously violent crimes.”

Lawyer cites Pirtles’ ‘victim mentality’

A member of a Spokane family that claims police target them because of their relation to a notorious double murderer is heading to federal prison, and his lawyer says his parents' "victim mentality" is partially to blame.

Jayce Leon Elton Pirtle, Jr., 24, was sentenced to 10 years in prison for being a felon in possession of a firearm.

Pirtle is the nephew of Blake Pirtle, who murdered two Burger King employees in Spokane Valley in 1992. Blake Pirtle's death sentence was overturned after a judge ruled law enforcement violated his civil rights during his arrest.

The Pirtles said in 2009 that police unfairly target them because of that case. They vowed to move out of Spokane. Spokane police spokeswoman Officer Jennifer DeRuwe says the family has a “propensity for crime” that earns law enforcement attention.

Pirtle's lawyer, Roger Peven, said Pirtle's parents' insistence that they have been unfairly targeted has not helped their son.

"The combination of parental neglect, abuse, enabling and perpetuating a victim mentality clearly has been devastating to this twenty-four-year-old's development," Peven wrote.

Pirtle, a father with a girlfriend of seven years, had a troubled childhood that included reporting to authorities his father nearly killing his mother when he was just nine-years-old, according to a sentencing memorandum prepared by his lawyer, Roger Peven.

Pirtle's father went to prison, but, Peven wrote, it's clear "that the abuse and neglect continued throughout Mr. Pirtle's youth." Pirtle later hid stolen property and a firearm with his father in 2005, Peven wrote.

"The public is better served by addressing the neglect and violence that this young man was subjected to so that Mr. Pirtle has a better chance of being a better parent and functioning member of society," Peven wrote. "It is clear that Mr. Pirtle is in need of some counseling or treatment to address the family issues he has encountered over the course of his life in order to get a grip on himself, be a functioning member of society, and be a parent to his children."

Pirtle was indicted in November for a handgun, two rifles and 175 rounds of ammunition found in his apartment at 1808 E. Pacific Ave. on July 8, 2011.

The guns were stolen in a burglary.

Pirtle was arrested the day of the search on a second-degree assault charge for an alleged baseball bat beating that left a man with a permanent lip disfigurement in May 2011. He still is charged with second-degree assault in Spokane County Superior Court. He has previous convictions for second-degree assault and second-degree kidnapping.

Feds oppose Thompson prison delay

Federal prosecutors appear to be growing frustrated with the ongoing delays that have kept convicted Spokane police Officer Karl F. Thompson Jr. out of prison.

Eight months have passed since a jury convicted Thompson of using excessive force and lying to investigators in the 2006 fatal confrontation with Otto Zehm, an unarmed janitor erroneously implicated in a possible theft. But court-ordered delays have postponed sentencing indefinitely as he seeks a new trial.

Read the rest of Tom Clouse's story here.

Intermodal shooter gets 82 years

A man convicted of trying to kill two Spokane police officers a decade ago was resentenced last week to 82 years in prison after his case was returned on appeal.

Jason A. Graham, 31, will be given credit for the nine years he has already served after he was convicted in 2003 of two counts of attempted first-degree murder, four counts of first-degree assault, second-degree assault and other property crimes.

Chief Criminal Deputy Spokane County Prosecutor Jack Driscoll said the case was returned to Superior Court Judge Maryann Moreno after the Washington Supreme Court ruled that firearm enhancements were improperly applied to Graham’s original sentence

Graham was wounded by police during a Jan. 7, 2002, during a shootout where he fired two dozen rounds from a semi-automatic assault rifle at officers following a vehicle chase in downtown Spokane. Bullets from the gun battle missed all officers and people aboard an Amtrak train and two Greyhound buses at the Intermodal Center.

Read previous coverage here

Rape suspect wanted after skipping plea

UPDATE: Green is no longer wanted. He appeared in court and pleaded guilty to third-degree assault. The rape charge was dismissed.

Crime Stoppers is offering a reward for tips that lead to the arrest of an accused rapist who missed his scheduled plea hearing.

J. Bailey Green, 24, was to plead guilty and be sentenced in Spokane County Superior Court June 19 for a second-degree rape and unlawful imprisonment case, but he never showed up. A warrant has been issued for his arrest.

Green was charged after a woman told police he raped her while at a home on West Sharp Avenue Dec. 3. The victim told police she bit Green. When police asked him about the bite mark on his cheek, Green said it occurred "maybe when I was trying to hold her down," according to court documents.

Anyone with information on the location of Green, who is 6-foot-2 and 200 pounds, is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS or submit tips online. Tipsters do not have to leave their name to collect a reward but should leave a code name or number.

Racist beat up by own victim sentenced

A skinhead beat up by a black man he was harassing in North Idaho last year has been sentenced to three to five years in prison.

Judge Benjamin Simpson retained jurisdiction over Daren Christopher Abbey, which means he'll go through counseling with the Idaho Department of Correction and be back before Simpson within a year. Simpson will then decide if he should go to prison.

Abbey, 29, pleaded guilty to malicious harassment, Idaho's hate-crime law, said Kootenai County Prosecutor Barry McHugh.

Abbey was arrested July 3 after he followed Marion L. Baker from J.D.'s Resort in Bayview at Lake Pend Oreille and told him he didn't belong there because he was black.

Baker left, but Abbey followed and yelled racist taunts as witnesses watched. Baker, clad in a "Spokane Boxing Club champion" shirt punched Abbey unconscious after Abbey poked him in the chest.

The plea deal approved last December dropped a malicious harassment and assault charge that stemmed from Abbey engaging in similar conduct with a corrections officer at the Kootenai County Jail who is Latino.

Retired Spokesman-Review reporter Bill Morlin covered Abbey's sentencing for the Southern Poverty Law Center. He reports that Abbey told Simpson, "I probably did make the wrong decision, and the result of that is I got beat up pretty bad." Check out Morlin's full report here.

Final kidnapping suspect sentenced

The final of five suspects pleaded guilty Thursday to kidnapping in connection with a case where a woman was tied up in a Spokane hotel and had her head shaved before being dumped in a rock pit by her assailants.

Desiree N. Walling, 31, pleaded guilty to first-degree kidnapping as part of an Alford plea, which acknowledges prosecutors could likely prove the charge. She also agreed to plead guilty to first-degree and second-degree trafficking in stolen property as part of a separate sentence that will run at the same time as the kidnapping incarceration: 51 months.

Read the rest of Tom Clouse's story here.

Past coverage:

May 13, 2011: Five accused of kidnapping, torture

Mobster’s girlfriend may appeal sentence

By DENISE LAVOIE,AP Legal Affairs Writer
BOSTON (AP) — The day after the longtime girlfriend of mobster James "Whitey" Bulger was sentenced to eight years in prison for helping him while he was on the run, her lawyer filed a notice in court saying she may appeal.

The one-paragraph document filed in federal court Wednesday says Catherine Greig (pictured) claims her right to appeal to the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Though the notice mentions an appeal of the conviction, attorney Kevin Reddington said she is not planning to. The notice can be withdrawn if she decides not to appeal her sentence.

Greig, 61, pleaded guilty in March to conspiracy to harbor a fugitive, identity fraud and conspiracy. She admitted she helped Bulger while he was a fugitive, using false identities, accompanying him to medical appointments and picking up his prescriptions.

Reddington said that Greig was in love with Bulger when she fled Boston with him in 1995 and that she did not believe he was capable of the murders he is accused of committing.

Greig's twin sister wrote in a pre-sentencing letter to the judge that Greig deserved leniency because she "never possessed an evil bone in her body" and wasn't involved in any crimes attributed to Bulger.

Margaret McCusker's letter to U.S. District Judge Douglas Woodlock said Bulger was charismatic and had "a certain power over people" but added, "I cannot speak to exactly why she left with him."

McCusker wrote that her sister grew up in a family affected by their father's alcoholism and always "had a sense of duty to care for people.

"She has touched many with her kind acts, and her love for animals is unsurpassed," McCusker wrote in the letter, unsealed Wednesday.

She said she did not know whether her sister was alive during the time she was gone with Bulger, who's in his 80s.

Bulger and Greig were apprehended in June 2011 in Santa Monica, Calif. They posed as married retirees from Chicago and had a stash of more than $800,000 in cash and 30 weapons in their apartment when they were captured.

On Tuesday, the judge sentenced Greig to eight years in prison, below the 10-year sentence recommended by prosecutors but well above the 27-month sentence recommended by her attorney.

Bulger, the former leader of the notorious Winter Hill Gang and an FBI informant, has pleaded not guilty to charges of participating in 19 murders. He awaits trial.

Under federal rules of appellate procedure, a defendant must file a notice of appeal within 14 days after sentencing. If Greig didn't file the notice, she would be barred from ever considering an appeal, so the notice is a safeguard.

Christina DiIorio-Sterling, a spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz, said it is Greig's right to appeal.

Past coverage:

June 29: Case continues against 'Whitey' Bulger

June 24: Boston mob boss hid in plain sight

Insurance agent gets 2 years for fraud

A former insurance agent and executive director of the Spokane Food Bank has been sentenced to two years in prison for fraud.

James K. Sokolis, 56, is to be on probation for three years after his release and pay about $356,000 restitution, which is the amount he admitted to stealing from a Coeur d'Alene insurance company.

Sokolis previously owned and operated Rockwood Insurance in Coeur d'Alene.
He sold his share of the business in August 2010 and was hired to work for the new company. He was fired after admitting to misusing client money.

Sokolis "had been juggling his clients’ funds for months, hoping to come up with enough money at the right time to bring all policies current," according to a sentencing memorandum prepared by his lawyer, Chris Bugbee.

He pleaded guilty in March to three counts of insurance fraud and was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill in Coeur d'Alene.

Wendy Olson, U.S. attorney for Idaho, commended the sentence in a prepared statement.

“Today’s sentence sends a strong message that those who are entrusted with other people’s money have an obligation to act honestly and for the benefit of their clients,” she said.

Bugbee described Sokolis as a "very well-respected" professional who has devoted much of his life to community service.

In addition to leading the food bank, Sokolis coached and served on the board for Spokane Youth Sports for about 20 years. He also served two years on the board for the Seattle YMCA and spent six years as the youth director of his church, according to the sentencing memorandum.

Chronic DUI suspect Crabtree sentenced

A chronic drunken driving suspect who badly injured a sheriff's deputy in a crash about 10 years ago has been sentenced to two years in prison on drug charges.

James Lee Crabtree, 51, is in the Spokane County Jail awaiting transport to prison after being sentenced to 24 months for possession of a controlled substance and delivery of a controlled substance.

He was sentenced last month to a year in jail and two years probation for a felony DUI charge.

Crabtree was a Spokane County sheriff's deputy in the 1980s. He went to prison for vehicular assault in 2003 and was arrested in November 2011 on suspicion of drunken driving after motorists noticed him passing out at the wheel of his car.

Police found an open can of Four Loko in the car, but his blood-alcohol level was under the legal limit for driving, and he was never charged. His current convictons stems from drunken driving and meth arrests in April and July.

In January, Crabtree was assaulted in a home-invasion robbery in which two assailants demanded “dope and money,” according to court documents.

Deer Park man guilty of vehicular assault

Spokane police released this photo of the March 29 crash.

A Deer Park man pleaded guilty today to a hit-and-run crash earlier this year that injured three people in Spokane.

Christopher L. Smith, 52, told Superior Court Judge Maryann Moreno that he blacked out when he approached the intersection of Mission Avenue and Greene Street on March 29. The crash took out a light pole and damaged three other cars. One of those drivers suffered a broken leg.

"I remember turning the wheel and I blacked out," Smith said. "I don't know why I walked away. I think about that every day."

But Smith came to his senses long enough to ask his ex-wife to tell police that he wasn't driving her car. He was arrested later that day at his Deer Park home.

Spokane County Prosecutors initially charged Smith with vehicular assault and three counts of failure to remain at the scene of an injury accident. As part of the plea bargain, two of the latter charges were dropped.

Moreno sentenced Smith, who had no prior felony convictions, to eight months in jail. She noted that if his story were true — that a blown front tire caused the crash — he likely would have faced a citation.

Man gets 6 months in horrific dog cruelty

A Post Falls man who beat his dog with a hammer as his neighbor watched in horror has been sentenced to six months in jail.

 Calvin Franklin Palmer, 53, who served 33 years in prison in Arizona for murder, apologized at his sentencing Friday and said the death of his Akita-pit bull even "traumatized him," according to court records.

"I was the only one who treated her nicely," Palmer said.

He told police he killed the dog after she attacked a cat and he feared she would attack him.

"I'm sorry that someone saw me do that," he said in court Friday, according to a transcript. Palmer was booked into the Kootenai County Jail that day to begin his sentence.

Palmer's neighbors in the 300 block of North Columbia Street in Post Falls called police Dec. 10 and reported the horrific attack.

Tammi Nichols, 40, said her 18-year-old daughter, Carmen Murphy, told her she'd seen Palmer beating the dog with the hammer.

Nichols said she told Palmer "You just traumatized my child," but Palmer "looked at her with a blank look on his face, then swung the hammer at the dog four more times, striking it in the head," according to court documents.

Post Falls police arrived to find the dog dead in a trash can, badly beaten with its throat slit.

Palmer initially lied to police and said he didn't own a dog, according to court documents. When they asked him about dog food at the home, he said he fed it to his cats because he can't afford cat food.

Palmer has been out of prison for about three years after being convicted of robbery and murder in Arizona, according to court records. He works at the Sweetgrass Cafe in Worley, Idaho, according to testimony at his sentencing.

His public defender, Megan Marshall, called for him to serve no jail time for the animal cruelty conviction, saying he'll lose his trailer if he can't work. She said his murder conviction "is following him for the rest of his life," according to court records.

Judge Penny Friedlander instead sentenced him to 180 days in jail but allowed for work release. Friedlander said it was "stunning to the court how anyone could do an act like that to an animal."

Man gets 10+ years for home robbery

A Spokane man has been sentenced to about 10 years in prison for a gunpoint robbery last year.

Jeremy L. Standon, 30, has an extensive criminal history that includes convictions for first-degree robbery, unlawful possession of a firearm, money laundering, drug possession, second-degree identity theft, first-degree burglary, theft of a firearm.

He recorded his second first-degree robbery conviction - and second strike under the state's three-strikes-and-you're-out law - when he pleaded guilty in late April. Now he's headed to prison on a 129-month sentence that will include credit for 364 days already served in jail after being sentenced this week in Spokane County Superior Court.

Co-defendant John Gibson Dean, 30, is awaiting trial. He was arrested earlier this month after a couple months as a fugitive.

Police say Dean and Standon robbed three people of money, jewelry and electronics after being allowed inside the home at 1415 N. Post St. May 9, 2011. Police paid a confidential informant $100 for information that helped identify the men.

Suspected serial burglar gets 9 years

One of two brothers suspected in a series of Spokane County burglaries has been sentenced to nine years in prison.

Donald G. Myhren, 30, pleaded guilty to residential burglary for a break-in last year and was sentenced this week to 108 months. He still faces additional robbery and burglary charges for break-ins at home this spring, along with his brother, Dustin J. Myhren, 26.

The men were out of jail awaiting trial for last year's case when detectives arrested them for the new burglaries in April. Investigators reviewing burglary reports noticed that the description of suspects in a series of Spokane County burglaries matched the brothers, and that a suspect vehicle was registered at their address.

They've both been jailed on $250,000 bond ever since and are scheduled to begin trial July 16 for the latest burglaries, some of which included the theft of sports cards.

Donald Myhren resolved last year's case Monday in Spokane County Superior Court; Dustin's still is pending.

Jodie Sinclair, whose home was burglarized by the brothers last year said she walked into her home to find one of the brothers running through her living room. The home was ransacked. Her husband chased after the man and his brother "and they in turned pulled a gun to get him to back off," Sinclair said in an email.

The brothers are accused of again confronting a homeowner at a gunpoint just months ago.

Sinclair said she was disappointed in the sentence and said she hopes the pending robbery and burglary charges will put Myhren away for much longer.

"The material items he took that day can be replaced for the most part," she said. "But what he stole from us is our sense of security and ability to feel comfortable in our own home."

Robbery case resolved in 3 weeks

That was fast.

A 35-year-old man arrested for a robbery nearly three weeks ago has pleaded guilty.

Shawn James Combs was sentenced to about 3 1/2 years in prison for first-degree robbery last week in Spokane County Superior Court.

He'd made his first court appearance May 2 after being arrested on a warrant for the Feb. 2 hold-up at the Select Inn Motel, 1420 W. 2nd Ave.

Combs got $150 in the robbery. He's required to pay back the money as part of his sentencing.

He remains in the Spokane County Jail awaiting transport to prison.