Monday, July 22, 2024

Judge Tosses Case against Patriot Front Leader

'The Court concludes dismissal is the only way this Court can instill some sense of justice back into this matter...'

(Ken Silva, Headline USA) An Idaho judge dismissed on Friday the state’s case against Patriot Front leader Thomas Rousseau after prosecutors flaunted rules that required them to provide the defendant with possibly exculpatory evidence, according to the Idaho Tribune.

“My client is thankful that he had a fair day in court, and was unsurprised that the court saw things the way we presented them, and he believes this is a fair outcome to an unjust situation,” Rousseau’s attorney told the Tribune.

Reporter Casey Whalen said prosecutors may appeal the decision, but that such an effort will likely fail.

The judge’s dismissal stems from the incident in June 2022, when 31 members of the right-wing nationalist group were arrested after someone reported seeing people loading into a U-Haul van like “a little army” at a hotel parking lot in Coeur d’Alene. The members were accused of planning to riot at a nearby LGBT event.

Five of the Patriot Front defendants were convicted of misdemeanor charges of conspiracy to riot in July.

But in August, a judge dismissed the case against Patriot Front member Richard Jessop after finding that the government had acted in “bad faith.” The judge’s decision about Rousseau on Friday was presumably based on the same facts that led to the dismissal of Jessop’s charges.

“The Court concludes dismissal is the only way this Court can instill some sense of justice back into this matter. There is no confidence the State has even yet complied with its discovery obligations,” Judge Destry Randles said in her Aug. 18 order, which was directed towards Coeur d’Alene’s deputy city attorney, Ryan Hunter.

“The State has engaged in bad faith in its dilatory disclosures, non-disclosures, failure to comply with Court Orders, failure to appear in Court when required, all the while insisting it has provided everything to Defense Counsel and is prepared for trial.”

According to Judge Randles’s order, the prosecution didn’t inform Jessop what he was criminally charged with for 102 days after his initial arrest.

Then, the prosecution engaged in what Judge Randles described as a “14-month-long drip of discovery,” including the “dumping” of 3.5 terabytes of data on the defendant seven months after he was charged.

Prosecutor Hunter continued to ignore his discovery obligations, even after a judge ordered him to comply, Randles said.

Hunter, for his part, apparently tried to blame the FBI, telling the judge that the bureau possessed much of the evidence. But the judge rejected this excuse.

“This Court disagrees with the prosecutor’s assertion that the FBI’s possession of the phones prevented that information from being imputed to the State. The phones were turned over to the FBI, not seized by the FBI, these devices were seized by the Coeur d’Alene Police Department,” the judge said.

“Mr. Hunter told the Court that the FBI was not involved in the initial investigation. The Court has no information about how the FBI became involved, and the only information the Court has is that Detective Welch turned the phones over to the FBI while a warrant was being drafted,” the judge said, suggesting that the state was “partnering with a federal agency and playing a shell game with that evidence.”

“It should be noted that during the Motion to Suppress testimony, there was a statement that the FBI was present at the Command Center,” Randles added.

Randles further said that she considered a lesser sanction against the prosecution: simply disallowing the evidence that the prosecution failed to provide in a timely matter. But this route would unduly delay a trial for a misdemeanor crime that should have already been settled, she said.

Ken Silva is a staff writer at Headline USA. Follow him at twitter.com/jd_cashless.

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