A former Idaho state trooper from Athol pleaded guilty Friday to charges including petty theft and malicious injury to property in exchange for other criminal charges against him being dropped.
Daniel Charles Howard, who resigned from the Idaho State Police on Nov. 14 after 19 years on the job, could receive up to five years in prison when sentenced in the next two months. His attorney, Chris Bugbee, said he will request probation for Howard instead of jail time.
Kootenai County Prosecuting Attorney Barry McHugh said Friday that his office has not yet decided on a sentence recommendation but added that “a prison sentence will be considered.”
Howard’s guilty pleas include two felonies that carry maximum prison terms of five years each, which would be served concurrently. Other felony charges were dismissed as a result of a plea deal struck early this month.
McHugh said Howard’s guilty pleas “incorporate almost all the conduct charged in the offenses (that were) dismissed.”
He added, “We preserved our ability to argue for a prison sentence.”
Howard, 48, appeared in Kootenai County District Court wearing a pin-striped suit and an American flag pin on his tie.
He admitted guilt to a fraud charge for using a fictitious name in a Bonner County title application for a Harley-Davidson motorcycle. Related forgery and grand theft charges were dismissed, but the court will be able to consider Howard’s conduct that involved him allegedly doctoring a bill of sale for the motorcycle to avoid paying over $1,000 in sales tax.
Howard also admitted guilt for misdemeanor possession of a white-tailed deer without a tag.
In addition, Howard entered an Alford guilty plea to two other charges — malicious injury to property and petty theft. That means he admits the evidence against him may persuade a jury to convict, but that he continues to assert his innocence.
The felony charge of malicious injury to property stems from allegations that Howard had stalked and threatened a neighbor in Athol, Matthew Wood, in 2013. He was accused of damaging Wood’s house and vehicles. Related felony charges were dismissed, and Howard agreed to pay restitution to Wood and Wood’s insurance company.
“The malicious injury charge demonstrates to the court that Mr. Howard over a period of time was willing to fire a weapon at his neighbor’s house, enter into his garage to damage vehicles, and leave a harassing statement burned in his neighbor’s grass,” McHugh said.
The petty theft relates to allegations that Howard had stockpiled at his residence more than 15,000 rounds of service ammunition belonging to the ISP. He had faced a charge of grand theft for that, but it was reduced to a misdemeanor.
“Based on defense evidence we became aware of pending trial, we anticipated difficulty in proving Mr. Howard possessed without authority as a range master over $1,000 in ammunition,” McHugh said.
Howard agreed to make restitution to the Idaho State Police for the ammunition. He also has paid the sales tax he should have paid upon registering the motorcycle in Bonner County, McHugh said.
Howard also could be hit with several thousand dollars in fines for his crimes.
Bugbee said he will ask the judge for probation and withheld judgment for Howard. Under withheld judgment, if Howard complies with all of the conditions of his sentence he can seek to withdraw his guilty pleas and have his convictions vacated.
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