January 13, 2017

What About The Public Interest?

Filed under: Probable Cause — Tags: , , , — Bill @ 7:04 am

Questions copy copyThe Coeur d’Alene Press published an article on Thursday, January 12th, headlined Nault’s Family Wants Answers.   The article’s lead read, “A year and half after a popular Coeur d’Alene High baseball player drowned in Lake Coeur d’Alene, his mother and sister still don’t know exactly what happened.”

Unfortunately, it was a typical Press “emotion” piece, an article more focused on telling the public how the Nault family feels rather than giving the Nault family or us substantive information.  It’s information the public needs to evaluate how well or how poorly the Kootenai County Sheriff Ben Wolfinger and the Kootenai County Prosecutor Barry McHugh are performing their official duties.

The Nault family is absolutely entitled to know the answers to the questions Mr. James posed in the article.

So is the public.  There is a valid  public interest in determining if Reggie Nault’s death was thoroughly and competently investigated and if all those who contributed materially to his death were prosecuted.  There is certainly a valid public interest in knowing if official favoritism was shown toward some who should have been prosecuted for incidental crimes (e.g., Destruction, alteration or concealment of evidence) but were not.

The county sheriff and the county prosecutor are elected officials.  The questions posed by the Nault family in Thursday’s article and the questions OpenCdA raised in our earlier posts in 2015 and 2016 are still valid.  It appears they’re also still unanswered.   The results of the Nault death investigation and any investigations into the related conduct of involved adults  and juveniles will allow the public to better evaluate the official performance of elected officials including the sheriff, the prosecutor, and judges.

Certainly the Nault family’s feelings are important. OpenCdA gives attorney Leland James respectful credit for pushing the feckless Coeur d’Alene Press to perform as a newspaper rather than the image protector of elected officials.


  1. There seems to be a whole lot of hush around this unfortunate case. So it seems, a less affluent kid hanging out with a couple affluent kids tragically dies. I venture to say that all parties will do what they can to best serve their cause as I would do the same. But that still doesn’t make it right does it?

    Comment by Eric — January 16, 2017 @ 1:05 pm

  2. Eric,

    Thank you for commenting. The Nault family would stand a better chance of getting truthful answers and the quality of justice in Idaho would be better served if Mr. James could get his petition heard from waaaaaaay outside the First Judicial District.

    Comment by Bill — January 16, 2017 @ 5:02 pm

  3. “hush” is a good term to describe the situation. Communication black out may be another way to describe the situation. Hopefully the Judge will help Mr. James be able to review most, if not all, of the information.

    Comment by Tributary — January 23, 2017 @ 12:35 pm

  4. Tributary,

    If the Nault family (and the public) cannot see the entire report with only certain unique personal identifiers redacted, then how are we able to determine that the investigation done in the name of an elected official, the Sheriff, and the charging decision issued on behalf of another elected official, the Prosecuting Attorney, were both responsibly completed?

    Based on what our local skewspaper reported, the one and only criminal investigation has been completed and the charging decision made. The public record should, in fact, be public. I support Mr. James’ petition but believe that whatever is made public to him and the Nault family should also be made to the public. And I would prefer to see the entire set of documents, not our skewspaper’s interpretation or characterization of them.

    If there have been spinoff investigations begun but not yet completed (very doubtful) and if releasing the information Mr. James seeks would compromise those investigations, then the response to his request should have been explicit and statd denial based on I.C. 74-124.

    Comment by Bill — January 24, 2017 @ 1:24 pm

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