Several earlier OpenCdA posts beginning with the one entitled ‘In Search of Facts’ on October 20, 2015, commended Reggie Nault’s family for engaging attorney Lee James to try and shovel the details of the investigation into Mr. Nault’s death from under the increasingly lumpy Kootenai County rug.
The headline of the article in today’s Coeur d’Alene Press says it all: ‘Judge: Release Nault Records‘.
As reported, First District Court Judge Rich Christensen has ordered Kootenai County Sheriff Benton Wolfinger to turn over ALL of the Nault records to Mr. Nault’s family. Sadly, the Nault family had to get a court order to force Wolfinger to release the records. Unsurprisingly, Kootenai County Prosecuting Attorney Barry McHugh sought to help Wolfinger keep information in the records from ever seeing the light of day.
There were some questions we would expect to have been fully and completely answered in the investigative reports prepared by the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office investigators. They include:
What adults were present on the boat and at the dock? Whose boat was it? Who was operating the boat? What was the boat operator’s degree of impairment? Or was the operator’s impairment even determined by Sheriff’s deputies? What was the unexpurgated timeline of events surrounding the incident? From the moment Mr. Nault went into the water, who did what and when did they do it? Was evidence of alcohol consumption by minors concealed by the minors or any adults present? If other crimes were committed which contributed to Mr. Nault’s death or which hindered the investigation into it, why were those crimes not charged by the Kootenai County Prosecutor or a ‘conflict’ attorney from another county?
Now we hope either or both our local and regional skews papers do their job as (alleged) newspapers and file public records requests to examine ALL of the records Judge Christensen ordered to be released. We would also hope that the papers publish complete and accurate stories that enable readers to fully evaluate the competence and performance of the County Sheriff and the County Prosecuting Attorney.
We’re not holding our breath on that.
In the past, both the Coeur d’Alene Press and The Spokesman-Review have appeared inclined to under-report stories revealing the job performance of public officials they favor in Kootenai County.
We think that in particular, both papers ought to look closely at the number and nature of ‘conflicts’ that Prosecutor Barry McHugh declares when he farms cases out to prosecuting attorneys in other counties. That information is one of the valid job performance assessment tools available to voters.
We also think that the papers ought to look at the quality of the investigation done by the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office. A poor or incomplete initial investigation into an unattended death reflects as badly on a department’s leadership, supervision, and training as it does on the investigators who completed it. At the same time, it is not unheard of in some law enforcement agencies to occasionally have investigators’ reports adjusted by supervisors in the interest of political expedience or out of consideration for the social standing of some involved.
As we did in our initial OpenCdA post on October 20, 2015, we once again sympathetically commend the Nault family for their decision and efforts to pursue the facts surrounding Reggie Nault’s death. Unfortunately, it took an order of the Court to get it done, but we offer a heartfelt ‘Thank You’ to the Nault family and their attorney Lee James for fighting to get it.