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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Eye On Boise

Whistleblower complaints charge ISP cover-up in death case

The Idaho State Police is facing three whistleblower complaints from state police officers who say they were retaliated against after they refused to help cover up a Payette County sheriff’s deputy’s illegal conduct in a fatal car crash in 2011, a cover-up that another lawsuit alleges led to criminal charges against the deputy being dismissed. Idaho Statesman reporter Cynthia Sewell detailed the case and related lawsuits in an article published in Sunday’s Idaho Statesman; it’s online here. In the crash, the deputy was driving 115 mph on a two-lane, 55-mph highway when he struck and killed the driver of a Jeep who was turning left and going 24 mph.

Among the article’s revelations: After two troopers testified accurately about their investigation of the fatal crash in court, the top brass at ISP called an ISP sergeant who was involved in the investigation – and who now has resigned and filed a whistleblower lawsuit – into a meeting at ISP headquarters in Meridian. There, one top officer said he couldn’t believe ISP was going to send a deputy to prison, and another officer said of the two troopers who testified, “If these two boys have a job, they will be lucky to work nights and weekends.” Both are now working night and weekend patrol shifts after reassignments.

The article also reports that the chief investigator in the crash, Trooper Justin Klitch, gave inaccurate and conflicting testimony in court, secretly recorded a meeting with the prosecuting attorney while cooperating with the defense attorney, and prompted the prosecutor to dismiss the charges against the deputy due to problems with the investigation. Klitch is currently the target of three other lawsuits, all alleging illegal search or seizure; they include the 2014 lawsuit filed by Darien Roseen, who charged that Klitch pulled him over on I-84 because he had Colorado license plates and that state had recently legalized marijuana, claimed he could smell marijuana, and held and searched Roseen and his vehicle for hours, finding nothing.

The daughter of the Jeep’s deceased driver also has filed a lawsuit  against ISP and its director, Col. Ralph Powell, charging that ISP engaged in a “cover-up” and “evidence tampering” that prevented the criminal charges against the deputy from going to trial, making it more difficult for the family to prove its case in a civil wrongful-death lawsuit. 

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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