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Man who pulled gun during Hayden bar fight pleads guilty to murder

UPDATED: Mon., Dec. 23, 2019

The Kootenai County Courthouse, where Scott M. White pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, is seen in 2011. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)
The Kootenai County Courthouse, where Scott M. White pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, is seen in 2011. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)

A Coeur d’Alene man who pulled a gun during a bar fight last winter has pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and faces a prison sentence of 10 years to life.

Scott M. White shot and killed Michael “Topher” Clark on Feb. 24 in the parking lot of The Tipsy Pine, a bar in Hayden.

Clark, 45, gained notoriety in the early 2000s for his role in a Canadian marijuana smuggling ring that inspired the movie “Kid Cannabis.”

White, 34, entered his guilty plea in Kootenai County District Court last week. He was originally charged with first-degree murder, which generally carries a longer sentence.

White has been held in the Kootenai County Jail with bond set at $1 million since his arrest. He is scheduled to be sentenced in March.

The fight began inside the bar, where Clark was a regular, according to court records.

Witnesses – including White’s girlfriend and the bartender, who knew Clark – told sheriff’s deputies Clark had confronted White for behaving loudly while playing songs on the jukebox.

After the two got into an argument, witnesses said, White threw the first punch, hitting Clark in the side of the head and breaking skin, and Clark responded by slapping White in the face. The bartender helped break the two men apart, handed a bill to White and his girlfriend, and asked the couple to leave the bar.

Clark went outside and punched White, and the two men resumed fighting in the parking lot, White’s girlfriend told deputies.

After the two men ended up on the ground, White stood up, pulled a pistol from a holster in his waistband and shot downward at Clark, striking him in the chest, stomach, back and bicep, according to court records.

One of Clark’s friends held White at gunpoint until deputies arrived. Clark was unresponsive when deputies arrived and later pronounced dead at the hospital. White was described as heavily intoxicated at the time of the shooting.

Clark made a living building hot rods and street bikes after getting out of federal prison in 2006. He had served 30 months for his role in smuggling millions of dollars’ worth of “B.C. bud” from Canada into Idaho in the early 2000s.

Clark and a friend, a 19-year-old pizza delivery driver named Nathaniel “Nate” Norman, reportedly came up with the idea to run pot over the border after reading an article in High Times magazine about British Columbia’s loosely enforced cannabis market. Almost by accident, they created a lucrative drug empire and raked in enough cash to purchase lakefront homes and luxury cars.

The operation also resulted in a ganglike rivalry with another group of pot smugglers led by Brendan Butler, a 20-year-old Gonzaga Prep graduate who was murdered by an associate in 2002.

Clark and Norman were indicted on federal drug charges in 2003, along with 22 others, and went to trial the following year. The story, first reported by The Spokesman-Review, and later by the Inlander and Rolling Stone magazine, became the basis for the 2014 movie “Kid Cannabis.”

Norman now owns a heating, ventilation and air conditioning business in Coeur d’Alene.

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