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Sunday, December 8, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Feds upgrade charges in alleged assault of park ranger

Federal prosecutors will seek tougher charges against a Kettle Falls houseboat owner who they allege assaulted National Park Service rangers just before another man was shot in September.

Michael Sublie was arrested after a late-night confrontation over what witnesses described as a routine end-of-the-summer barbecue at the Kettle River Campground, about 10 miles northwest of Kettle Falls. Prosecutors initially charged Sublie with violating the park’s posted noise regulations and obstructing a federal officer, both petty offenses.

Earlier this week, a grand jury returned a charge of assault against Sublie. The Kettle Falls man could spend up to a year in prison if found guilty.

Rangers approached the houseboat about the noisy party and, court documents say, received a belligerent response from an intoxicated Sublie. During a scuffle, investigators allege Sublie shoved one of the rangers off the boat’s gangplank.

Sublie’s friend, Casey Hartinger, was aboard the houseboat when at least one ranger opened fire.

The names of the rangers involved have not been released publicly by either the National Park Service or Washington State Patrol, the agencies investigating the incident.

The secrecy prompted an outcry in September by local residents who say federal law enforcement officials in the area act with impunity and trample civil rights. Protesters named the rangers involved as Josh Wentz and Matt Phillipson.

A court order barring Sublie or his attorney, Roger Peven, from sharing details of the investigation with the public will remain in effect. Peven said Thursday the order is not protecting anything that won’t be divulged as the case goes before a jury.

U.S. Assistant Attorney Tyler Tornabene said in court that federal prosecutors plan to abandon their previous case against Sublie in favor of the new, stronger allegations soon. The U.S. attorney’s office declined to comment on what prompted the new assault charge.

The case is tentatively scheduled to go to trial later this month.

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