Our July 23, 2016, post entitled Unanswered Questions or Unquestioned Answers? properly suggested that one of Kootenai County Prosecuting Attorney Barry McHugh’s go-to conflict attorneys, Boundary County Prosecutor Jack Douglas, had apparently decided that the public didn’t need to know any more about the drowning death of Coeur d’Alene High School student Reginald J. Nault.
Now, contrast the Douglas-McHugh information drought with the good example of openness by Attorney General Lawrence Wasden in his release and online publication of the decision letter sent Friday to the Adams County Prosecutor and attorneys for the Yantis family. The public can view the letter and investigative file on the Attorney General’s website. (ADDENDUM on 07-30-2016: For those who prefer not to read, see two of the video summaries in today’s Idaho Statesman. AG Wasden Sheriff Zollman)
Most people that followed the investigation into death of Council, Idaho, rancher Jack Yantis at the hands of Adams County Deputy Sheriffs also know that the Yantis family has filed a civil damage claim against the County. AG Wasden is clearly aware of that.
AG Wasden was also aware of the keen and continuing interest in the investigation by the Yantis family and neighbors in Council. Wasden could have stonewalled them for information by making them submit an Idaho Public Records Law request. He could also have used the “make ’em pay dearly” legislatively-approved practice of charging applicants for the time and above-the-page-limit copies to see public information. He did neither.
AG Wasden’s decision letter made it very clear that his office’s charge “… was to review this matter for the sole purpose of determining whether criminal charges should be filed against the two Adams County Sheriff’s Office employees involved in the shooting of Jack Yantis.”
AG Wasden’s letter then went on to say, “The OAG’s duty in conducting that review did not include determining whether any person or entity should be held liable in a civil action…” In other words once the criminal charging decision had been made by AG Wasden, his office had no obligation to keep the investigative results quiet just to protect Adams County or any individuals from civil liability. AG Wasden was free to post the investigative information (with certain lawful and required redactions) for all to see. To his credit, that’s exactly what he did.
OpenCdA thinks Boundary County Prosecuting Attorney Jack Douglas ought to do exactly the same thing with the investigative material developed during the Reginald Nault death investigation. We also think our local and regional skews papers ought to join with OpenCdA in this suggestion. But we won’t hold our breath for any of this to happen. The already-lumpy Kootenai County rug is likely to get lumpier.