OpenCDA

July 23, 2016

Unanswered Questions Or Unquestioned Answers?

Filed under: Probable Cause — Tags: — Bill @ 4:46 pm

Questions copy copyIn a brief and inaccurate press release dated July 22, 2016, Boundary County Prosecuting Attorney Jack Douglas dismissively informed Kootenai County residents he had “… determined that no criminal act can be shown to be a direct cause [of Reginald J. Nault’s death]” and that “Therefore, charges will not be filed against anyone by my office.”

As Douglas explained in his carelessly written press release, Kootenai County Prosecuting Attorney Barry McHugh had once again declared his own office had a potential conflict of interest and had to find a prosecutor who had no connection with any of the parties or their families.  That has fueled online speculation that “parties or their families” are politically “connected” in Kootenai County.

In our initial reading of Douglas’s press release, we observed that he had inaccurately stated the date of the incident as July 21, 2016,  and the date of recovery as August 3, 2016.  Both were in 2015, not in 2016 as Douglas stated in his press release.  OpenCdA suspects that Douglas’s press release was hastily prepared in response to an online and on-air news story dated July 21 by KREM television out of Spokane.   OpenCdA hopes Douglas paid closer attention to the Nault investigative reports than he did to the preparation of the press release.

Douglas’s determination quoted above that “… no criminal act can be shown to be a direct cause of Mr. Nault’s death” is the answer that needs to be questioned.

What parameters, if any,  did McHugh give to Douglas?  For example,

  • Was Douglas told or requested, and did he agree, to determine only if a criminal act can be proven to be a direct cause of Nault’s death?
  • Was Douglas told or requested, and did he agree, to not look for evidence of, or deliver a charging recommenation for, any provable subsidiary criminal charges for actions which may have materially contributed to Nault’s death?
  • Was Douglas told or requested, and did he agree, to not look for evidence of, or deliver any charging recommendation for, any provable subsidiary criminal charges for actions involving destruction of evidence, witness tampering, perjury, or subornation of perjury?

Do you also wonder why was Douglas’s press release so brief?

OpenCdA speculates that the Kootenai County Prosecuting Attorney is hoping the Nault family will not initiate any kind of civil action alleging the wrongful death of Reginald J. Nault.

Shortly after Nault’s death, his family engaged an attorney to monitor the death investigation conducted by the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office.   That was extremely wise.  The Nault’s attorney represents the Nault family’s interests; the Kootenai County Prosecuting Attorney represents the County’s interests, not the Nault family’s.

The results of the KCSO investigation would be discoverable in a wrongful death action.   That discovery would result in very close scrutiny of the timeliness, diligence, and thoroughness of the KCSO investigation.  It would also identify not only the other two juveniles in the boat, but it could also identify others on shore, both juveniles and adults, who may have acted unlawfully with relevant actions prior to the incident, during the incident,  or after the fact to destroy evidence or encourage witnesses to become forgetful or intentionally misstate facts.

If a civil action is begun, it would be up to none other than the Kootenai County Prosecuting Attorney to represent the interest of any County agency or official subpoenaed in the action.  That could include seeking protective orders to prevent the Nault family from gaining access to relevant records maintained by any County agency or to testimony by County officials.  Thus, Kootenai County Prosecuting Attorney Barry McHugh could find himself fighting the disclosure of information that could bring some comfort to the Nault family and better inform registered voters about the official performance of elected County officials including the Prosecuting Attorney, Coroner, and Sheriff.

8 Comments

  1. I would hope that someday, Kootenai County elected officials will mature to the point where well-connected, powerful, and political cronies don’t dictate their actions, but that they instead follow their oath of office and uphold the law.

    Comment by Dan Gookin — July 23, 2016 @ 5:08 pm

  2. Dan,

    When elected officials are selected not because of their demonstrated competence and their knowledge, skills, abilities, and suitability for the job but because they grew up here and attended local schools and because of their political party connections and their demonstrated willingness to seek “mentoring” from influential people, by the time they’re sworn in, their innate defects of character and competence are too ingrained. They won’t be corrected by maturity. Sadly, those same selection processes that give us corrupt or incompetent County and City officials also give us corrupt and incompetent state officials. The few good and honest government officials in Idaho are stifled by those who are neither good nor honest.

    Comment by Bill — July 24, 2016 @ 3:00 pm

  3. The very fist paragraph causes at least half a dozen questions even for a person like me. I am quite tried of the one law for me and a different law for [them]. Maybe this was just a tragic accident but the very fact that the investigation was handed off to another county without any explanation makes one wonder about special treatment for the moneyed or empowered.

    Comment by Mike Teague — July 24, 2016 @ 3:22 pm

  4. Mike,

    A lot of people in this town and this county and this state “get” that laws are preferentially and differentially enforced, prosecuted (or not prosecuted), and adjudicated. But when you have criminal justice officials that propagate the corrupt system and news (skews) media that absolutely refuse to diligently and consistently report criminal wrongdoing because it involves “pillars of the community” such as elected officials, athletic coaches and athletic directors, the system continues.

    The Nault death investigation was conducted by the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office. The Kootenai County Prosecuting Attorney Barry McHugh declared he had a conflict and he selected Boundary County Prosecuting Attorney Jack Douglas to be the conflict attorney. After reviewing the KCSO case file and evidence, Douglas could have either directed KCSO to conduct additional investigation or he could have undertaken it himself.

    While the appointment of a conflict attorney is valid, I can see how it could be abused to enable elected prosecutors to avoid politically sensitive charging decisions and trials by declaring a conflict and using an agreeable prosecutor in another county to make the tough decisions without fear of voter awareness and retaliation at the polls.

    Comment by Bill — July 24, 2016 @ 4:07 pm

  5. One (I guess me) is left to wonder why pros mchugh did not take this matter to his favorite go to vehicle, so as to avoid all responsibility, a grand jury?

    Comment by Tributary — July 26, 2016 @ 3:50 pm

  6. Tributary,

    The information flow is more controllable by having the Boundary County Prosecutor make the charging decision.

    Comment by Bill — July 26, 2016 @ 4:07 pm

  7. Oh yeah, I got confused. For some reason I had a mental lapse and thought that the pros would ‘of course’ be interested in justice. My bad.

    Comment by Tributary — July 26, 2016 @ 4:26 pm

  8. Tributary,

    If someone were evaluating the performance of a prosecuting attorney, I think it would be highly informative to seek and reveal the nature and number of conflict declarations he or she has made and how many conflict referrals in civil and criminal cases he has made to prosecutors in other counties in Idaho.

    Comment by Bill — July 26, 2016 @ 4:55 pm

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