May 5, 2017

Nault Wrongful Death Lawsuit Complaint

Filed under: Probable Cause — Tags: , , , — Bill @ 9:45 am

DisingenuousAs reported in OpenCdA’s May 3, 2017, post entitled Be Strong and Take Courage …, family members of Reginald J. ‘Reggie’ Nault have filed a wrongful death civil lawsuit in Mr. Nault’s death.

OpenCdA has obtained a copy of the initial complaint for damages and demand for jury trial filed in Idaho’s First Judicial District Court on May 2, 2017, at 5:05 p.m.

In addition to identifying the plaintiffs and defendants specifically and individually by name and establishing the jurisdiction and venue of the Court, the complaint particularizes each specific allegation the plaintiffs believe they can prove at trial.

OpenCdA’s preceding posts concerning Mr. Nault’s death raised questions about the quality and timeliness of the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office investigation and its unwillingness to release the investigative reports to the Nault family.  We also raised concerns about the conflict asserted by Kootenai County Prosecuting Attorney Barry McHugh when the ‘conflict’ attorney, Boundary County Prosecutor Jack Douglas’s press release stated, “However, based on my review of this event and applicable Idaho law, I have determined that no criminal act can be shown to be a direct cause of Mr. Nault’s death.  Therefore, charges will not be filed against anyone by my office.”  [emphasis OpenCdA’s]

Paragraph 2.20 and in particular its subparagraphs 2.20.a through 2.20.i in the complaint allege circumstances which, if sufficient evidence exists to show probable cause, would warrant the filing of some criminal charges.   Paragraphs 3.2.z  through specifically cite Idaho statutes which plaintiffs believe were violated.

Even if we and our readers believe Mr. Douglas’s assessment of evidence and applicable law was appropriate when his office declined to file charges against anyone because no criminal act could be shown to be a direct cause of Mr. Nault’s death, the failure to explain why other possibly appropriate criminal charges were not filed certainly raises valid questions.

The public has a legitimate interest in examining the professional conduct of its elected officials.  The Sheriff and the Prosecuting Attorney are not exempt from that examination.

OpenCdA believes the evidence admitted in court in the wrongful death lawsuit brought by Reggie Nault’s family should contribute to the public’s assessment of the official performance of duties by Kootenai County Sheriff Benton Wolfinger and Kootenai County Prosecutor Barry McHugh.

Additionally, we believe that it will give the public the opportunity to assess the performance of the First Judicial District judge who ultimately hears the case.

To the extent that other elected officials not yet named in any complaint may have received some or all the results of the investigation while those same results were being withheld from the Nault family, we think those officials’ conduct and the conduct of the investigative information provider(s) are deserving of public scrutiny as well.

We hope that the public will pay close attention to the news coverage and reporting of this trial by local and regional newspapers and television stations.    We hope that the news media will carefully and thoroughly question and then timely, completely, and accurately report inconsistencies between the trial evidence and the public officials’ statements and characterizations of that evidence.

Finally, we hope that on his own initiative,  Idaho Attorney General Lawrence G. Wasden pays very, very close attention to the filings and evidence in this civil lawsuit.  His office has statutory jurisdiction as well as a duty and responsibility to investigate if the evidence presented in court reveals violations of state criminal law by county officers who hold elective office.   In this particular lawsuit, the county officers most directly involved who hold elective office would include Kootenai County Sheriff Benton Wolfinger, Prosecuting Attorney Barry McHugh, and Kootenai County Coroner Warren Keene.


  1. I hope that the Nault family gets a nice settlement that does not cause more insult to injury. However, civil cases in this area rarely get anywhere and eventually may be settled out of court to avoid further limelight. Very sad, I just hope the justice system does not burn them again.

    Comment by Stebbijo — May 10, 2017 @ 7:07 pm

  2. Stebbijo,

    Thank you for commenting. I made the typo correction you requested.

    Hopefully the local and regional skews media will show some backbone and dig much deeper into the official conduct of the Sheriff’s Office in conducting the investigation, recording it faithfully and completely, and then sending all the results of investigation to the Prosecutor.

    I also hope the skews media take an interest in the number and nature of the cases in which the county Prosecutor declares he has a conflict and therefore must use another county’s prosecuting attorney to take over some or all of the case.

    Both the Sheriff and the Prosecutor are elected officials, and the voters are entitled to know if they are performning the duties of their offices diligently and impartially rather than preferentially and with deference to political expedience.

    Comment by Bill — May 11, 2017 @ 6:13 am

  3. Hopefully this lawsuit is about accountability and not money. I would suggest that there is no such thing as “a nice settlement” and that no award of money by a jury will ever be “sufficient”.

    Comment by Tributary — May 12, 2017 @ 11:41 am

  4. How can it be? It is a civil suit. I agree that there is no such thing as a “nice settlement” — lack of better wording, but the family deserves something that might represent a pittance of justice.

    Comment by Stebbijo — May 13, 2017 @ 2:43 pm

  5. Tributary and Stebbijo,

    From what I’ve been told, the Nault family hopes that information about Reggie’s death will somehow help other families avoid a similar outcome.

    It seems to me that Wolfinger and McHugh fought terribly hard and very unsuccessfully to keep investigative information out of the plaintiff’s hands. The Court ordered it ALL released to the plaintiff. I’d speculate that if someone follows the lineage of the names of a couple of the defendants, it’ll lead back to some presently or formerly prominent people in local government and the school district. If my speculation is correct, that is precisely the kind of information the voters need to determine if our County elected officials are worthy of the public’s trust and confidence.

    Comment by Bill — May 13, 2017 @ 3:00 pm

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