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Eye On Boise

No charges in North Idaho voter intimidation case

By KIMBERLEE KRUESI, Associated Press

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Idaho's top prosecutor has decided not to file criminal charges after his office was asked to review accusations of possible voter intimidation and interference during campaigning for last November's election.

Deputy Attorney General Paul Panther sent a letter this week telling the Bonner County prosecutor's office that he did not find evidence of malicious harassment or stalking in the alleged incidents in the small northern city of Sandpoint.

"For each incident reported, the investigation either was unable to identify the individuals involved or failed to establish that criminal conduct had occurred," Panther wrote.

According to police reports, a Democratic campaign volunteer in late September was told he "better watch his back" by a man wearing a hat promoting the re-election campaign of Republican Rep. Heather Scott. The volunteer later found a group of people wearing Scott campaign hats and buttons taking pictures of his vehicle in a grocery store parking lot.

Several days later, the same volunteer reported to the Bonner County sheriff's office that a truck pulled into his driveway at his rural residence in the middle of the night to take photos of his vehicle.

Sgt. Aaron Flynn wrote that he told the volunteer his feelings of being targeted were being taken seriously and requested extra police patrols. In a statement, the volunteer said that he doubted his report would do any good because Flynn told him that "Democrat is not a protected class."

Panther's letter said the investigation did not uncover evidence that the encounters were motivated by factors such as race, color, religion or national origin — a requirement to qualify for malicious harassment under Idaho law. Investigators also failed to establish that any of the people mentioned by the volunteer participated in more than one encounter.

Scott did not return requests for comment, but has previously denied the Democratic Party's allegations of intimidation. She went on to defeat her Democratic challenger in November's general election.

"Obviously, we are disappointed," said Shelby Scott, a spokeswoman for the Idaho Democratic Party. "We believe our field operator that these incidents happened and we are going to continue the fight against voter intimidation."

The party also requested that the U.S. Attorney's office investigate the volunteer's claims.

A spokeswoman for the office, Barbara Layman, said she was unaware of any active investigation by federal prosecutors.

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press

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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