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Spokane woman sues Walmart, claiming she was profiled

April 15, 2014 2:42 p.m. - Updated: 2:44 p.m.

A Spokane jury will hear the civil case filed against Walmart by a woman who claims she was profiled as a shoplifter and humiliated by a store employee in December 2011.

 

Beyonce Nieves sued the Arkansas-based retailer in Spokane County Superior Court, asking for damages resulting from assault, unlawful imprisonment and outrage for an incident that took place at the Shadle Park location on Dec. 9, 2011. Attorneys for Walmart claim their employee, a store loss prevention officer, acted reasonably when he confronted Nieves outside the store, alleging she’d secreted some stockings in a backpack and walked out without paying.

 

The confrontation led to Nieves allegedly disrobing in the parking lot in an attempt to prove her innocence, pulling up her shirt and pulling down her pants, according to court documents. The police were called and charges against her were later dropped when investigators could not prove she’d stolen anything.

 

The employee said in court filings he witnessed Nieves place the stockings in the pocket of her hooded sweatshirt. Attorneys for Walmart also want jurors to hear about a previous incident at a Fred Meyer store in which Nieves was captured on video “engaging in a crime of dishonesty” similar to the alleged Walmart shoplifting, according to court documents.

 

Nieves claims that she was singled out for surveillance because of her physical appearance. Security video will be played at trial, in which Nieves claims there is no evidence she took any items without paying.

 

Walmart has denied the allegations against itself and its employee through an attorney. The company claims Nieves was responsible for whatever consequences, physical or otherwise, resulted from the incident.

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Houseboat owner says he was recorded following shooting

April 9, 2014 10:08 a.m. - Updated: 10:11 a.m.

The owner of a houseboat charged with assaulting a National Park Service ranger during a dispute about loud music before another opened fire, injuring a guest, says he was recorded secretly after the shooting.

Michael Sublie has been charged with assault and obstruction of justice stemming from the Sept. 14 incident at the Kettle River Campground just northwest of Kettle Falls. According to court documents, rangers Joshua Wentz and Matthew Phillipson approached Sublie's boat - moored for an end-of-the-summer party, witnesses said – after 10 p.m., established quiet hours on the secluded, federally owned property.

Wentz used pepper spray and a stun gun in an attempt to subdue Sublie, then was pushed from the gangplank, according to court documents filed last week. Phillipson opened fire with his service weapon, striking passenger Casey Hartinger in the side.

Hartinger was standing near his children, aged 10 and 14, when he was fired upon, according to court documents.

U.S. Assistant Attorney Tyler Tornabene asked a judge to preclude all evidence of the shooting from jurors' ears, arguing Phillipson fired after the commission of the alleged crimes. But Sublie's attorney, Roger Peven, said in filings Tuesday the events occurred simultaneously, and it would confuse jurors to divide the two.

“The shooting happened literally during the middle of the interaction between Mr. Sublie and Ranger Wentz when Ranger Phillipson discharged his weapon,” Peven wrote.

Peven also alleges that Sublie was surreptitiously recorded by National Park Service rangers during a discussion with a local police officer who responded to the scene. Sublie was placed in a National Forest Service patrol car when he spoke with the officer, whom he knew, according to court documents. Peven wrote rangers placed a recording device in the car to keep tabs on what was said.

Hartinger received medical attention from medical technicians already present at the scene, according to court documents. He was later treated at Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane and released. He has not been charged with any crimes in the incident.

A jury trial in the case is tentatively scheduled for May. Sublie, who is not in custody and has no other criminal history, faces up to a year-and-a-half in prison if convicted.

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Gonzaga’s role in yard sale lawsuit sparks “Breaking Bad” parody

March 28, 2014 11:41 a.m. - Updated: 11:42 a.m.

The tale of how a yard sale dispute ended up costing a Spokane Valley man nearly $5,000 has prompted spirited debate in the SR's comment fields over the role of Gonzaga Law School's University Legal Assistance program.

Frequent commenter Loudin even posted the cleverly assembled parody meme shown above. The growing comment string can be found below the online version of the article.

As detailed by SR reporter Kip Hill, Gonzaga law students participating in the school program represented a man who bought a 50-year-old boat for $950 at a yard sale and then complained about its condition. The seller failed to adequately respond to the university's correspondence, which meant the case ended up being decided on procedure rather than its merits

Fans of the widely acclaimed but now ended TV series “Breaking Bad” will recognize the character Saul as the ambulance-chasing lawyer who made his living on frivolous lawsuits and keeping drug dealers out of prison.

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Spokane Valley adds more cops

March 26, 2014 12:39 p.m. - Updated: 12:48 p.m.

At a time when many cities are still scrambling to find ways to add police or fill positions left vacant to help balance budgets, Spokane Valley has green-lighted a plan that puts more deputies on the streets when they're needed most.

City Council members agreed last night to add two additional deputies as part of a reorganization of the patrol division that includes creation of a fifth platoon to augment day and night shift staffing. The goal is to have more patrol deputies on the street when demand for police services tends to be highest.

The city pays the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office about $17 million a year to provide law enforcement coverage under a contract that dedicates about 100 deputies to Spokane Valley, with nearly half of them assigned to patrol duties. The others include administrators, supervisors, detectives and school resource officers. The city also provides a police station, equipment and vehicles.

Cost of the plan is about $423,000, which includes equipment upgrades, though city officials believe it could be less because it will take some time before the sheriff’s office is able to get the additional deputies on board. Recurring annual costs to the city of the two additional deputies is about $350,000, which includes benefits and the city’s share of the county’s costs for employee administrative services.

Under the proposed reorganization, the rank of corporal would be eliminated and the positions redistributed. Three would be upgraded to sergeants, two would be turned into detectives and one position converted to patrol deputy in the new platoon.

The two new deputies plus one deputy from each of the existing four platoons would be transferred to the new “power shift” platoon. The deputies would augment staffing by working from 3 p.m. to 1 a.m., which overlaps the day and night shifts and is when Spokane Valley sees its greatest demand for police services.

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Smoking hazardous to wanted man’s health, presumed innocence

March 25, 2014 11:40 a.m. - Updated: 11:53 a.m.

A man with an outstanding warrant revealed a needle in his waistband while reaching for one last smoke before going to jail Sunday night at Northern Quest Casino, according to court records.

An officer initially approached Preston Livingston, 28, because he was slumped over in the driver's seat of a pickup truck at the Airway Heights casino, according to court records. Livingston told the officer, who said it appeared as though Livingston were drunk, that he was waiting for a friend who was inside, according to court records.

A check of Livingston's records revealed a warrant for his arrest. When the officer told Livingston he would be taken into custody, Livingston asked for one last cigarette before going to jail. While reaching for the smoke, the officer noticed the needle in Livingston's waistband.

After handcuffing Livingston, the officer again checked the truck. Near the console, he spied another needle, a tourniquet, a scale and a black pouch, according to court records. When asked about the items, Livingston told the officer his friend was using them to get high and that he used methamphetamine, but hadn't in the past 10 hours.

Livingston was released from jail without bail, according to jail records. No charges have yet been filed against him for the drug paraphernalia, according to court records.

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Suspected drunken driver crashes near off-duty deputy’s home

March 20, 2014 12:52 p.m. - Updated: 1:05 p.m.

A man suspected of drunken driving had his keys confiscated by an off-duty Spokane County Sheriff's Deputy who witnessed the man trying to drive over some boulders near Liberty Park, according to court documents.

Wayne Pederson crashed his Toyota pickup near a trailhead at the park just south of Interstate 90 in Central Spokane earlier this week. A sheriff's deputy who was home at the time of the crash left his home to find Pederson trying to drive over a boulder that was blocking the trail, he told investigating officers.

Pederson then fell out of his truck, according to court documents. The deputy took Pederson's keys and called law enforcement, who arrived and conducted a sobriety test. The investigating officer listed Pederson's level of impairment as “obvious.”

Pederson refused a breathalyzer and blood draw at the scene, according to court documents.

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Jeffreys sentencing delayed again

March 18, 2014 9:02 a.m. - Updated: 9:15 a.m.

A judge has ordered the sentencing for married couple Greg and Kimberly Jeffreys, both of whom pleaded guilty to defrauding development investors in Spokane and elsewhere, pushed to the summer.

For Greg Jeffreys, the accused mastermind of schemes ranging from leasing property at inflated rices in the restored Ridpath Hotel downtown and bilking the federal government of funds in the construction of a military installation off Highway 2, it is the second continuance granted ahead of sentencing. Prosecutors want Jeffreys to serve eight years in prison and pay back millions in restitution from fraudulent schemes, but Jeffreys plans to fight that amount by calling a cavalcade of witnesses at his sentencing hearing.

That hearing will now tentatively take place in June, according to a court order signed last week.

Kimberly Jeffreys, who pleaded guilty in February to fraud charges stemming from the military installation construction, was granted her first sentencing continuance. A hearing scheduled for next month has been pushed to July, according to court records. For her involvement, prosecutors want Kimberly Jeffreys to spend six months in prison and pay restitution of up to $150,000.

A third conspirator, Shannon Stiltner, was sentenced in February to seven months of prison time and ordered to pay restitution to two investors totaling about $58,000.

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Would-be booze robber leaves store without liquor, freedom

March 17, 2014 1:03 p.m. - Updated: 1:11 p.m.

A man accused of stealing a $13 bottle of vodka from a Spokane grocery store was arrested on suspicion of first-degree robbery after he allegedly punched a clerk and heaved the liquor bottle into the road.

Chad Burk, 40, was arrested late Friday after witnesses said he left a Safeway store on North Market Street without paying for his alcohol. A clerk watched Burk grab a bottle of vodka and a can of beer, walk to the frozen foods section and place the can of beer inside. Burk placed the vodka in his jacket and walked out without paying, according to the store clerk.

The clerk chased Burk out of the store, where Burk allegedly punched him twice and pushed him up against a wall. The employee wrestled Burk to the ground when police arrived.

At some point during the altercation, Burk threw the vodka into the street, according to court records.

Burk was released from custody without bond this weekend. He is expected to make a first-appearance on the charge against him Monday afternoon.

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Ricin suspect ordered to obtain psychiatric evaluation

March 7, 2014 8:43 a.m. - Updated: 10:07 a.m.

A federal judge has ordered a Spokane man accused of sending ricin-laced letters to government officials, including President Barack Obama, receive psychiatric evaluation to determine if he is competent to stand trial.

Matthew Ryan Buquet has been in federal custody since May, when several letters that initially tested positive for the castor bean-derived toxin arrived at the Thomas S. Foley Courthouse in downtown Spokane. The missives, which included the message “We have a bomb placed we are going to kill you! Hezbollah,” arrived in envelopes bearing the return address of a downtown Spokane law firm, according to court documents since sealed.

A female employee of the firm reported she began receiving notes and gifts, including a can of Coca-Cola, on her desk. Buquet, a member of the janitorial crew that cleaned the office space leased by the law firm, had been dismissed from previous jobs for similar behavior. The FBI detained Buquet at his apartment shortly after the letters were discovered and interrogated him at a hotel, according to court paperwork. An FBI agent with the investigation said at the time Buquet appeared “gravely disabled,” exhibited “bizarre behaviors” and was “delusional,” according to court records.

U.S. District Judge Ancer Haggerty authorized the mental evaluation. Haggerty, an Oregon judge, was assigned to the case after a Spokane judge recused himself because one of the poisoned letters was addressed to a colleague.

Haggerty wrote in his ordered he was “satisfied that there is reasonable cause to believe the defendant may not be competent to understand the charges against him and to assist in his defense.”

A hearing to argue the findings of the competency hearing is set for May, with a potential jury trial in the case pushed to October. Buquet has been indicted on a criminal charge of possessing a deadly biological agent and two counts of mailing threatening communications. If convicted of the charges, Buquet could spend 20 years to the rest of his life in federal prison.

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Rex Newport makes Alford plea

Feb. 26, 2014 3:12 p.m. - Updated: 3:28 p.m.

There were a few questions from readers about the article in today's Spokesman-Review reporting the guilty plea of Rex Newport, a Colville Police officer who had been accused of multiple sex crimes spanning a period from 2011 to 2013.

The Spokesman Review has obtained a copy of the pleading paperwork filed in Stevens County, which has been attached to this Sirens and Gavels blog post. The initials of victims and addresses have been redacted. No other changes have been made to the versions that appeared online.

Newport, 45, entered an Alford plea Tuesday, according to his statement made on page 16 of the attached document. The pleading means Newport admits the evidence against him may have convinced a jury to convict, though he continues to maintain his innocence.

According to court documents, Newport will have to surrender his badge and service weapon as a result of the felony conviction. He must also register as a sex offender with the state for a decade.

Wednesday's story indicated Newport faced a sentence of between 22 and 29 months. The pleading paperwork, which includes the terms of the deal, states prosecutors are recommending Newport serve his sentences concurrently for the five charges. That means the maximum amount of time he would spend in jail, if a judge accepts the plea, would be 22 months - the low end of the sentencing range. See page 13 of the attached document.

Finally, the Spokesman has reported Newport faces a civil case in which a pilot claims Newport used excessive force when detaining him during an arrest at a municipal air field in 2011. Newport and the City of Colville have denied the charges, according to court documents. The case is being heard in federal court and has a current trial date in September. There have been no new filings in that case since November.

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