The Idaho attorney general’s office will not refile charges against Nez Perce County Commissioner Douglas Havens related to his purchase of items at a county surplus auction because of a specific prohibition in state law.
First District Judge Patrick R. McFadden dismissed four misdemeanor charges of “officers not to be interested in sales” Monday after Havens’ attorney, Scott Chapman, challenged Deputy Attorney General David Morse’s omission of the name of his main witness on a routine disclosure to the defense.
McFadden said he would not allow the witness, investigator Asmir Kararic, and Morse said he couldn’t mount a case without that testimony. At the time, Morse pledged to refile the charges. But attorney general spokesman Scott Graf said Thursday that there is a statutory prohibition in Idaho against refiling a misdemeanor charge once it has been dismissed.
“We made an error that affected our ability to prosecute this case,” Graf said in a statement. “The judge made the correct decision. We regret that this happened and are already examining our processes to make sure it doesn’t happen again. That said, we support the prosecutor and I guarantee that no one feels worse about this than he does.”
Under Idaho law, a prosecuting attorney is barred from refiling a misdemeanor charge if it is dismissed by a judge. Felony charges, on the other hand, can be refiled. Graf said that while his office doesn’t anticipate filing any other charges based on the facts of the case, it would separately evaluate any new information it receives.
Havens’ Lewiston attorney, Chapman, said Thursday that he didn’t have any comment on the decision to not refile the case.
The attorney general’s office brought the charges after Havens signed a routine resolution last year designating certain county property as surplus. He then attended a subsequent surplus auction and bought an operating table, a Craftsman toolbox, a filing cabinet and a windshield wiper storage box. The purchases totaled around $20.
Other county employees also attended the auction, and the incident led county Prosecutor Justin Coleman to issue a memo warning all county employees and elected officials against attending and bidding at such auctions. Coleman recused himself from any criminal investigation since he advises the county commission on legal matters, leaving the attorney general’s office to prosecute the case.
Havens admitted to attending the auction and buying the items. If he had been convicted, he faced penalties of up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.
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