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Henrikson trial could be 3 years out

Oct. 23, 2014 9:54 a.m. - Updated: 10:20 a.m.

If federal prosecutors seek the death penalty for the man accused of masterminding a plot to murder a South Hill businessman and one of his former oil patch employees, the trial likely wouldn't begin until the tail end of 2017.

A report filed in support of a motion to continue the federal trial of James Henrikson, the man accused of ordering hits on Doug Carlile and Kristopher “K.C.” Clarke, says federal capital cases take an average of three years from indictment to the commencement of trial. The report, prepared by Director of the Federal Death Penalty Resource Counsel Project Kevin McNally, was filed in support of a similar motion to delay the trial of accused Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

McNally examines 150 federal death penalty cases that have commenced since Jan. 1, 2004, to find that the average time between indictment and opening arguments in the cases was 36.5 months, or a little more than 3 years. The median amount of time was a tad less, at 32.6 months.

Henrikson was indicted Sept. 16. He had been in custody in North Dakota since January, facing a federal charge of being a felon in possession of a firearm. He also faces potential fraud charges, according to court documents.

Henrikson's codefendants (Timothy Suckow, Todd Bates, Robert Delao, Lazaro Pesina and Robby Wahrer) have also been indicted in Spokane federal court. The next court date for Henrikson, involving a motion for prosecutors to provide discovery materials to defense attorneys, is scheduled for Nov. 4.

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Baumrucker trial pushed to next year

Oct. 21, 2014 1:38 p.m. - Updated: 1:45 p.m.

A federal judge on Tuesday granted a joint request to push the trial of Matthew Baumrucker, the Spokane County Jail inmate tied to former Spokane County Deputy Prosecutor Marriya Wright.

Baumrucker, 31, remains in custody at the jail on a federal charge of being a felon in possession of a firearm. Wright faces a charge in Spokane County District Court of rendering criminal assistance, a misdemeanor, and her next court date is scheduled for next month.

Wright told federal investigators earlier this year she provided Baumrucker, who has been convicted of multiple felonies, with a photograph of herself in a bikini at a bodybuilding competition, according to court records. A request to her attorney to describe the nature of her relationship with Baumrucker has gone unanswered.

Baumrucker's cell was searched in April after a jail guard reported seeing Wright visit the 31-year-old frequently, though she was not involved in his case. Wright told investigators she met Baumrucker while prosecuting a domestic violence case against him.

A trial on the firearm charge was scheduled to being next week in a Spokane federal courtroom, but Judge Fred Van Sickle pushed that date to February. Federal prosecutors indicated a new indictment on additional charges will likely be filed next month. Baumrucker has asked that all evidence discovered in the case, including Brady v. Maryland material on any of the investigators involved in his case, be provided.

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Beggs mailer: ‘I fought for Otto Zehm, and I will fight for You!’

Oct. 17, 2014 3:56 p.m. - Updated: 5:58 p.m.

Mailers for the two men vying to replace outgoing Spokane County Prosecutor Steve Tucker echo the strengths the candidates have touted on the campaign trail.

For Democratic challenger Breean Beggs, that means a reference to his work representing the family of slain janitor Otto Zehm in civil proceedings against the city of Spokane and Karl Thompson, the police officer found guilty of violating Zehm's civil rights.

On the back of the mailer, right next to a personalized message thanking the recipient for their vote, is the quote, “I fought for Otto Zehm and I will fight for You!”

Beggs has touted his work in the Zehm case on the campaign trail, as well as pointing to his involvement in the creation of the Blueprint for Reform, a document calling for changes throughout the criminal justice in Spokane that was crafted with input from Beggs and the organization he helped found, Smart Justice.

Larry Haskell, a deputy prosecutor running as a Republican, includes no personal message but touts his experience in the office. Haskell has questioned whether Beggs' reputation for suing city and county law enforcement will hinder his ability to head the prosecutor's office.

The race, which has already shattered fundraising totals in most recent campaigns for the office, eclipsed the $200,000 mark this week. Beggs reports more than $133,000 in contributions and recently reported television ad purchases totaling more than $7,000 on local stations.

Haskell has collected more than $75,000, according to his most recent reports to the Washington Public Disclosure Commission. He has bought $4,000 worth of radio ads, according to the reports.

What do you think of Beggs' message linking himself with the Zehm case in his mailers? And do you share Haskell's concerns that Beggs will have difficulty working with law enforcement he's sued in the past?

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Judge candidate Trageser questions Leland’s sign placement

Oct. 8, 2014 10:18 p.m. - Updated: Oct. 9, 12:02 a.m.

A candidate for Spokane County District Court judge, Tim Trageser, is questioning incumbent Judge Richard Leland’s placement of his campaign signs.

Leland's campaign has attached many of his signs to Republican candidates, including Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich, using zip ties. Trageser argues that it gives voters the impression that Leland is endorsing candidates for partisan offices, a violation of the state’s judicial rules.

“His association with Republican candidates and a current sheriff does not give the appearance of impartiality,” Trageser said in an email.

Leland said he's endorsing no candidates for partisan office, and that Trageser's concern is a stretch. Attaching his signs to other candidate signs is a way to save money on rebar, he said. He would have asked Democrats for permission to use theirs, but Democrats’ signs weren’t as widely distributed when he began his campaign, Leland said.

Leland is running an unusually active campaign for judge. He said he has knocked on 3,000 doors.

Having served as U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rogers' district director just before he was appointed judge, Leland has strong ties to many Republicans, but he said he's not focused on partisan politics.

“He’s trying to make this a Republican or Democrat thing,” Leland said. “I’m from the Republican side, but I’m not a Republican or a Democrat. I’m a judge at this point.”

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Shooting victim’s family angered by sentence

Sept. 26, 2014 2:12 p.m. - Updated: Sept. 30, 9:43 a.m.

The family of a 24-year-old woman shot by a man sentenced to 31 months in prison earlier this week following a January robbery attempt says they are angered they were not informed of the plea deal before it was approved.

But the victim advocate on the case said the woman who was shot declined to participate in the trial proceedings, and restitution was ordered to cover her medical bills.

“We didn't know anything about it,” said Susan Debles, who identified herself as the grandmother of Brittnei J. Fawver. Fawver was shot three times in the chest by Jahvory Kinard during what investigators called a drug deal gone wrong Jan. 3. Debles said she sat by her granddaughter's side for a week as a tube sucked fluids out of her chest and kept her from suffocating. A bullet ricocheted off her rib, saving her life, Debles said.

“If that bullet would not have hit her rib, it would have pierced her heart and her lung,” Debles said. “She would have drowned in her own blood.”

Lori Sheeley, a victim advocate with the Spokane County Prosecutor's Office, said there were multiple attempts to reach Debles before the plea deal went through.

“We definitely did as much as we could, given the circumstances,” Sheeley said.

Kinard - who is the older brother of Kenan Adams-Kinard, one of the teens accused in the fatal beating of 88-year-old Delbert Belton - pleaded guilty to one count of first-degree robbery in the case. The pleading was part of a deal to close two cases, the other an incident stemming from an armed standoff with a cab driver in September 2012, Kinard's attorney Steve Reich said Wednesday.

Debles said the family received notice of Kinard's sentencing in the mail two days after the pleading took place. She said the prosecutor in the case, Tom Treppiedi, was not returning her phone calls.

“You know he's going to do it again,” Debles said of Kinard. “You can just tell by the look on his face. Next time, he's going to kill somebody.”

Sheeley said Monday that Debles had not returned several messages.

Treppiedi was not immediately available for comment Friday.

After the shooting, Fawver served 73 days on a charge of money laundering that Debles said is unrelated to the drug deal. The 24-year-old is currently in custody of the Benton County Jail for a probation violation.

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Ephrata pot shop fights trademark lawsuit

Sept. 22, 2014 10:48 a.m. - Updated: 2:37 p.m.

An embattled Ephrata pot shop has fired a lofty salvo in response to a trademark infringement lawsuit filed against it by the marijuana media juggernaut that publishes “High Times” magazine.

In its response to a lawsuit filed last month in U.S. District Court for Eastern Washington, Richard Reimers and his business - previously known as “High Time Station” because of its location near train tracks in the small Grant County town - ask the federal courts to cancel publisher Trans-High Corp.'s trademarks on the phrase “High Times.”

Reimers cites the court's authority under 15 United States Code Section 1119, which grants federal courts the authority to reverse or modify trademark registrations authorized by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Reimers' attorney, John R. Zeimantz of Spokane, says the company is not using the mark to actually sell marijuana, and now that the practice is legal for recreational sales in two states (and potentially more) and medicinally in many more, the trademark should be cancelled.

“Since Plaintiff is not making a lawful use of the mark in commerce, the mark is not entitled to Federal registration and the existing Federal registration should be cancelled by this Court,” Zeimantz wrote in the response, filed earlier this month.

High Times has been published monthly since 1974, when it debuted as a satirical one-off publication of Playboy magazine. The company has rigorously defended its trademark rights of the High Times name in Washington and elsewhere.

The company has filed multiple registered trademarks with the Patent Office, including the publication's logo that has been active since 1994.

But a victory by Reimers would not be without precedent. The national sandwich chain Firehouse Subs sued a Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, bar and grill asking them to cease and desist using the word “firehouse” in their name. A jury found in favor of the small business and, as a result of the settlement agreement, the national franchise agreed to allow its “Firehouse” registered trademarks to expire. The courts will also be asked to review the Patent Office's decision not to renew certain trademarks owned by the Washington Redskins franchise because of concerns the team name is insensitive to native populations.

The next court hearing in the Ephrata pot shop case is scheduled in Spokane next month. Reimers said by email last month he'd had trouble keeping his shop open due to supply issues in rural Washington.

 

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Spokane Police body cameras demonstrated for media

Sept. 16, 2014 2:29 p.m. - Updated: 2:55 p.m.

The Spokane Police Department ran several members of the media through its VirTra virtual training system Friday to demonstrate the fidelity of its chest-mounted cameras currently in use by 17 officers in a pilot program.

The video below was captured by a camera worn by this reporter while completing one of several use-of-force training scenarios at the Spokane police training facility.

In the clip, four teenagers are playing with airsoft weapons when a fifth approaches, armed with a real gun, and fires on officers. The scenario is interactive and responds to voice commands from the participant.

Training instructors used the video to illustrate the imperfections of the technology.

“What these video cameras are recording, and what you're going to see, is still not what the officer sees, and what he feels, and what he hears, and what he's experiencing while he's at the scene,” Lt. Kevin King said to assembled media Friday. “It's very different.”

Police said they've stitched pockets into their jumpsuits to keep the cameras steady during lateral movement.

The body cameras are always filming. When they are switched on, 30 seconds of video prior to the camera's activation is recorded. Sound capturing begins immediately after the camera is turned on. Once the camera is on, it beeps every two minutes to alert the officer filming is taking place.

Sound begins 30 seconds into the above video. Technical issues delay the beginning of the training video, which starts around 2:20.

It should be noted: YouTube asked if I wanted to stabilize the video before uploading it because it's shaky.

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Shannon Stiltner responds to Zags tickets complaint

Sept. 15, 2014 10:26 a.m. - Updated: 10:52 a.m.

The girlfriend of convicted Ponzi scheme artist Greg Jeffreys said she's fulfilling court-ordered restitution and denied victimizing anyone in a response filed in federal court over the weekend.

The U.S. Attorney's Office for Eastern Washington filed a motion last week after it came to light Shannon Stiltner, who spent seven months in federal prison after pleading guilty to misprision of a felony for her role in Jeffreys' scams, had received a cash gift of $2,700 from her mother that she used to buy Gonzaga men's basketball tickets for the upcoming season. U.S. Assistant Attorney Sean McLaughlin called the purchase “a slap in the face” to the two named victims in court documents owed a little more than $58,000 in restitution.

In rebuttal, Stiltner's attorney John B. McEntire IV called the motion, which would require all cash gifts received by Stiltner to be given to the debtors until they've been repaid in full, “awfully aggressive.”

“Before receiving the $2,700 cash gift from her mother for the Gonzaga tickets, Ms. Stiltner contacted her supervising probation officer to explain the situation and seek advice. Ms. Stiltner’s supervising probation officer “staffed” the issue with her supervisor, who ultimately concluded that so long as Ms. Stiltner contributed 10% of this one-time cash gift ($270) towards her restitution obligation, then she would be fully compliant with the Court’s restitution order. “

- John B. McEntire IV
Response to United States' motion

McEntire said that Stiltner paid $270 of her own money in order to receive the cash gift and pay for the Zags tickets.

In support of the motion, McEntire writes that Stiltner is making restitution payments to victims of Jeffreys' scams, not her own. When pleading guilty to charges, Stiltner admitted only that she knowingly kept herself from learning that Jeffreys was involved in fraud, not that she actively participated in his schemes.

“Nowhere did Ms. Stiltner ever admit knowing that Mr. Jeffreys was engaged in a scheme to defraud investors – because she did not,” McEntire wrote.

Stiltner also argues that the government's request is not feasible, because it would require cash gifts of any amount to be turned over to the two named victims.

“Or let’s say, as another example, that Ms. Stiltner forgets her wallet and her friend offers to buy her lunch,” McEntire wrote. “Under these circumstances, Ms. Stiltner could not accept the $8 or $11-dollar gift for lunch.”

U.S. District Judge Rosanna M. Peterson will decide whether Stiltner's restitution order should be changed. No oral argument has been scheduled, and Peterson could rule as early as this week.

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Felon chucks allegedly stolen firearm in chase

Sept. 9, 2014 6 p.m.

A 26-year-old Spokane man with multiple felony convictions tossed a .45 handgun believed to have been stolen during a chase through a residential neighborhood Friday, according to court documents filed this week.

Joshua V. Fowler was booked into Spokane County Jail just after 4:30 p.m. Friday facing charges of attempting to elude police and unlawful possession of a firearm. A Spokane police officer, who said he recognized Fowler from multiple interactions, attempted to pull the 26-year-old over on suspicions he was driving with a suspended license.

“(Fowler) is as familiar with me and my Police Impala as I am with him,” the officer wrote in his report.

Fowler fled, according to the officer's statement, leading him on a car chase through an apartment complex parking lot, reaching speeds of 45 miles per hour. Fowler eventually left the car and reached for his waist, according to court documents. He was arrested nearby without incident.

The officer found the handgun and some ammunition in a bush nearby. The gun is believed to have been stolen in a residential burglary, according to court documents.

Fowler has three forgery convictions and a conviction for eluding police. Spokane Superior Court Judge Linda Tompkins set his bail at $5,000 on Monday. He remains in custody.

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Spokane man arrested for defecating on Kennewick sidewalk

Sept. 9, 2014 1:53 p.m. - Updated: 2:04 p.m.

A 71-year-old homeless man from Spokane was arrested in Kennewick this weekend for defecating on a public sidewalk.

The man, who is not named in a report from The Tri-City Herald, reportedly told the arresting officer, “When you have to go, you have to go.”

The man was waiting for a bus on the west side of town around 11:30 a.m. when he decided to drop trou, according to the Herald. Several witnesses were present, and the man was taken into custody without incident.

Donovan Simons Jr., 71, was booked into the Benton County Jail for what is described as a “municipal code violation” shortly after 12:30 p.m. Sunday, according to jail records. Simons has criminal history in Spokane County and appeared in Benton County District Court on Monday, according to state court records. He was ordered held on $1,000 bond.

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