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Saturday, October 24, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Jury deadlock leads to mistrial in alleged assault of ranger

A federal jury deadlocked Friday on whether a Kettle Falls man assaulted a National Park Service ranger.

A full day of deliberations ended in a mistrial for Michael Sublie, said a judicial assistant in U.S. District Court Judge Justin Quackenbush’s courtroom. In addition to assault, Sublie faced a charge of interfering with the duties of a federal agent.

The case stemmed from an incident Sept. 14 on Sublie’s houseboat at the Kettle River Campground, when loud music prompted a response from rangers Joshua Wentz and Matt Phillipson.

Prosecutors said Sublie shoved Wentz off a ramp to the boat, eventually prompting Phillipson to open fire. The bullet struck Casey Hartinger, who was standing near his 9-year-old son, witnesses said. Defense attorney Roger Peven argued the rangers boarded the boat without cause and Wentz fell while trying to detain Sublie.

The case prompted outrage in Stevens and Ferry counties, where many complained of overzealous actions by federal law enforcement. Dozens protested outside a National Park Service ranger station and the Stevens County Courthouse shortly after the shooting. One local police officer was called in Sublie’s defense.

Quackenbush had asked Peven and Assistant U.S. Attorney Tyler Tornabene to try to resolve the case outside the courtroom. The charged offenses were misdemeanors, carrying a maximum penalty of up to a year in prison. Sublie has no criminal history.

Prosecutors now must decide whether to seek a second trial.

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