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Eye On Boise

When not seeing a crime is a crime…

The Idaho Senate deliberates during a floor session. Among bills senators passed on Thursday was HB 422, to eliminate an archaic law making it a crime for a prosecutor or law enforcement officer to not prosecute "any act of gambling," of any type, that they know about. The bill now goes to the governor. (Betsy Russell)
The Idaho Senate deliberates during a floor session. Among bills senators passed on Thursday was HB 422, to eliminate an archaic law making it a crime for a prosecutor or law enforcement officer to not prosecute "any act of gambling," of any type, that they know about. The bill now goes to the governor. (Betsy Russell)

The Idaho Senate just heard that there's only one place in state law where it's a crime for a prosecutor or a law enforcement officer not to go after a crime that they know about - when they don't "diligently prosecute and investigate any act of gambling." That could mean any act - including football pools, friendly wagers by college presidents on the outcome of a game, or even a bet between a current and former governor. Senators didn't talk about that one, but yesterday on BSU Radio, former Idaho Gov. Cecil Andrus bet current Idaho Gov. Butch Otter $100 that state chief economist Mike Ferguson is closer in his estimate of state tax revenue for next year than the lower figure chosen by lawmakers and Otter, and Otter told the Idaho Press Club, "I'll take that bet and I hope he's right - I hope he is right, I pray that he is right."

"We have elected prosecutors in Idaho, and they make decisions every day about whether or not to pursue a particular defendant or whether or not to pursue a particular act," Sen. Kate Kelly, D-Boise, told the Senate. "And I think we can support that rather than exposing them to be subject to a crime for failing to prosecute." Kelly, an attorney, said the history of the no-discretion gambling prosecution law shows it originated in Idaho's territorial days, and there's no legislative history as to why it was enacted. "We can only speculate," she said. "At this point in time I think it's a good idea to remove it from the code, and I hope you agree with me." All but one senator - Sen. Jeff Siddoway, R-Terreton - agreed, and the bill, HB 422, passed 34-1. It earlier passed the House 69-1 with just Rep. JoAn Wood, R-Rigby, objecting;  it now goes to the governor's desk.



Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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