Sirens & GavelsLatest comments

Trial pushed in Morgenstern abuse case

Nov. 25, 2014 5:02 p.m. - Updated: 5:14 p.m.

The trial for a suspended ER physician at the Spokane Veteran's Affairs hospital has been pushed to April.

Craig Morgenstern, 45, remains in custody of the Spokane County Jail, facing a nine-count federal criminal indictment that charges him with producing child pornography, aggravated sexual abuse of a child and traveling across state lines to sexually abuse children. Morgenstern was originally jailed last month after a 13-year-old left the physician's Nine Mile Falls home and told a neighbor he'd awoken to the 45-year-old abusing him.

A subsequent search of Morgenstern's home - and a damaged laptop the physician allegedly deposited in a Dumpster on his way to the Stevens County Jail - has revealed evidence of multiple children being victimized by Morgenstern, according to court documents. Federal prosecutors indicated Tuesday they continue to comb through electronic files and a superseding indictment with additional charges will likely be filed.

A trial in the case had been tentatively scheduled for January. Morgenstern did not object to a continuance. A victim advocate told U.S. District Court Judge William F. Nelson the families of those alleged abuse did not object to pushing the trial date, but wanted certainty this case would be resolved.

0 comments ›

Daiquiri Factory owner: Zags appear frequently in bar ads

Nov. 21, 2014 3:35 p.m. - Updated: Nov. 24, 2:27 p.m.

Editor's note: A previous version of this blog post incorrectly reported the claims Gonzaga was making against Jamie Pendleton. The post has been updated to correct those reporter errors.

The owner of the long-shuttered Downtown Daiquiri Factory is continuing his fight against Gonzaga University, arguing several area bars use the school's trademarks in their advertisements without penalty.

The attorney for Jamie Pendleton, whose controversial business closed its doors in June, responded to the school's request for an injunction this week by filing multiple examples of the school's familiar bulldog mascot and Zags logo in social media postings for bars around town, mostly in the neighborhoods surrounding the Catholic college.

Gonzaga sued for alleged trademark infringement in April, saying the bar that infamously named one of its cocktails “Date Grape Kool-Aid” created confusion by featuring the bulldog mascot and logo in several of its promotions. The bar changed the drink's name a few weeks after opening in response to public outcry.

A federal judge agreed with Gonzaga, ruling in September that confusion could occur and ordering Pendleton to cease using the mascot and logo in promotions. The point was largely moot at the time, as the business had lost a rent battle with the owner of its downtown office space earlier in the summer and ceased operations.

The fight now is over how much damage was caused by Pendleton's use of the logo and mascots in what's known as an unfair competition claim and who should pay the legal fees for the trademark proceedings. John Pierce, Pendleton's attorney, said the school is requesting unreasonable actions from his client and that finding in favor of the school would “unconstitutionally (limit) a person's right to free speech.”

Legal filings show multiple bars, and potential competitors of the Daiquiri Factory's, using “Spike” the bulldog, photos of the men's basketball team and references to the “Zags” in promotions.

“Other similar cases have found the use of collegiate marks by local businesses as part of their trade names is an old and venerable tradition,” Pierce wrote in his rebuttal to the university.

The next hearing in the case is scheduled in Yakima for early next month, according to court records.

0 comments ›

Death penalty decision in Carlile murder plot to come in February

Nov. 6, 2014 3:42 p.m. - Updated: Nov. 7, 10:41 a.m.

A federal judge has given prosecutors until Feb. 10 to determine whether they will seek the death penalty for five of six men implicated in an alleged murder-for-hire plot tied to North Dakota oil fields that left a South Hill businessman shot to death in his home last year.

U.S. District Court Judge Salvador Mendoza set the deadline for the government to make its decision at a court hearing earlier this week. James Henrikson, Timothy Suckow, Robert Delao, Todd Bates, Lazaro Pesina and Robby Wahrer were indicted in September for their alleged roles in the shooting death of Douglas Carlile, who was found dead of gunshots by Spokane Police on Dec. 15. Federal prosecutors have said they may pursue a capital case against all defendants except Bates, who faces conspiracy charges for his alleged role in targeting another business partner of Henrikson's.

Suckow and Henrikson were also indicted for their alleged role in the slaying of Kristopher “K.C.” Clake, an employee of Henrikson's on the Bakken shale oil fields who went missing in 2012. His body has not been found.

Prosecutors say representatives from the U.S. Justice Department in Washington D.C. have traveled to Spokane in recent weeks to review the case and determine if a capital sentence is warranted.

Sixty-two federal inmates are currently on death row, according to nonprofit group the Death Penalty Information Center. Last month, Henrikson's attorney filed a motion with research indicating federal capital cases, when pursued, usually take three years from indictment to a jury's decision.

0 comments ›

Thompson appeals Zehm verdict to U.S. Supreme Court

Oct. 31, 2014 3:47 p.m. - Updated: 4:04 p.m.

Former Spokane Police officer and current federal prison inmate Karl Thompson earlier this month filed an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court of his excessive force conviction in the March 2006 death of Otto Zehm.

The appeal, filed with the nation's highest court Oct. 22, raises a different legal issue than the argument Thompson's attorney, Carl Oreskovich, made earlier this year before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. In the most recent filing, Thompson says the U.S. District Court improperly allowed evidence in the 2012 trial showing Zehm was innocent of the reported crime that prompted the contact in a Spokane convenience store March 18, 2006.

Store video showed Thompson approaching Zehm and quickly begin striking him with a baton. The filing with the Supreme Court gives Thompson's version of the events. The former officer said multiple commands for Zehm to put down a two-liter Pepsi bottle were made before the blows began, a claim the federal jury who heard the case rejected.

In arguments earlier this year that were later rejected by an appellate court panel, Thompson said his legal team was not provided expert witness statements analyzing the baton strikes in the video that may have changed trial strategy. A trio of appellate judges shot down that claim in June, then the entire panel of justices on the court declined to hear the case en banc later that month.

Thompson's claim this month is known in legal parlance as a “writ of certiorari,” or a formal request for the nine-member Supreme Court panel to review the rulings of a lower court. The Supreme Court receives 10,000 such requests annually and hears between 75 and 80 cases, according to its website.

Zehm, who died two days after the incident with Thompson, would have turned 45 today (Oct. 31, 2014).

19 comments ›

Prosecutor, sheriff candidates debate on KSPS

Oct. 31, 2014 11:19 a.m. - Updated: 11:27 a.m.

Election Day is Tuesday, and if you still haven't decided which candidate for Spokane County prosecutor or sheriff you're supporting, these televised debates that aired last night on KSPS-TV may help you decide.

Check out the videos after the jump.

5 comments / Read full post ›

Suspect with memorable name apprehended in Valley shoot-em-up

Oct. 27, 2014 11:30 a.m. - Updated: 11:30 a.m.

Police think they know who shot up a Spokane Valley tavern earlier this month and the suspect has an appropriately memorable name: Ray Gunn.

A convicted felon prohibited from legally possessing firearms, Gunn was taken into custody Oct. 23 by sheriff's detectives assigned to the Spokane Valley Investigations Unit, authorities said. The Spokane County SWAT team assisted with the apprehension.

Raymond Shawn Gunn, 39, is facing charges of unlawfully possessing a firearm, reckless endangerment and malicious mischief in connection with the Oct. 17 shoot-em-up at Jackson Hole Tavern, 122 S. Bowdish Road, according to the Spokane County Sheriff's Office. The tavern was closed and employees had just left for the night when the front of the building was sprayed with .40-caliber bullets.

No injuries were reported but damage to the tavern was estimated at more than $4,000.

Gunn was among a pair of patrons who had been asked to leave the tavern before closing time that night. During the arrest, detectives seized evidence at Gunn's home that they say link him to the shooting spree.

1 comment ›

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.

0 comments ›

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.

0 comments ›

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

Oct. 17, 2014 3:56 p.m. - Updated: Oct. 28, 10:21 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?

2 comments ›

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.”

11 comments / Read full post ›
Back to Spokesman Mobile