By CHANSE WATSON, Managing Editor and
WALLACE — Due to a scheduling conflict with the Silver Mountain valuation trial, the latest Shoshone County Law Day on Wednesday had District Judge Scott Wayman addressing more than 20 different cases in the smaller second floor courtroom in Wallace.
Of the many cases addressed on Wednesday were those of Caleb Hill, Wilbur Allen, Richard Willoughby and Joshua Easley.
• • •
Easley’s disposition hearing was the first of the four to be taken up by the court and concluded with Judge Wayman allowing him to go back onto probation.
On Nov. 10, 2017, Easley (and possibly others) was arrested for his role in the theft of numerous Bunker Hill Mine artifacts and rare minerals, including thousands of pyromorphite crystals, from a residence on Railroad Avenue owned by Bob Hopper Jr.
Working off a tip, the Kellogg Police Department and Shoshone County Sheriff’s Office executed a search warrant at Easley’s Kellogg home and located most of the stolen items.
After pleading guilty to the theft by receiving or possessing stolen property charge, Wayman initially handed down a two-year fixed, eight-year indeterminate prison sentence in October 2018, but then suspended the sentence in favor of three years felony probation.
On July 18, Easley was accused of four different violations of the terms of that probation, including possession of a controlled substance, consuming alcohol, failing a urinalysis and a fourth violation that was withdrawn. On Aug. 20, he once again violated his probation when he was caught smuggling suboxone into a rehabilitation facility, which led to his termination from the Good Samaritan Rehab Program.
In spite of the violations, Easley was able to get back into the program and was allowed by Wayman to complete his time there — leaving his actual sentence in limbo.
This decision by Wayman went against the Shoshone County Prosecutor’s Office recommendation of implementing the original 10-year sentence from 2018.
On Wednesday, Easley returned to court to find out if he would be allowed to go back onto probation after successfully completing his inpatient rehabilitation.
Before the decision, Chief-Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Ben Allen reiterated the state’s stance on the matter.
“The state presented to the court (at the last disposition) its argument in regards to Mr. Easley’s pattern on compliance, and non-compliance, compliance, non-compliance, and that pattern over a long period of time … A pattern of conduct by Mr. Easley shows that he’s complied when he was needing to in order to get the sentencing recommendation that he desired, then once he’s back out in the community, it’s simply been a matter of time before he is reoffending or violating.”
Defense Attorney Monica Rector countered Allen’s argument by pointing out her client’s progress in the Good Samaritan program and that he has a significant amount of support to help him.
“At the end of the day, he has taken accountability for his actions. He’s gotten the treatment needed to remain sober … he has a tremendous amount of community support to see that he remains sober and on the right path.”
Easley also spoke to his experiences in rehab.
“A lot of things have happened in my life. I lost my brothers and I was lost. All I wanted to do was suppress my feelings, I didn’t want to feel anything. Probably three and a half weeks ago, something happened during God time up their at the ranch and … I really believe God came into my life and everything after that started making sense. I want to make my brothers proud, I want to help take care of their kids, I want to be a role model for their kids. This time is different. I didn’t believe in myself last time, but this time I do.”
Wayman’s eventual decision to grant Easley supervised probation was based largely on the progress he made in his rehabilitation programs and the assumption that he will continue to complete them.
“Your actions have backed up your words, at least right now they have,” Wayman said.
• • •
Later Wednesday morning, Defense Attorney Erik Smith briefly represented his absent client, Richard Willoughby, for a status conference in that case.
Smith informed the court that due to his deteriorating health, Willoughby had recently been assigned a guardian conservator and was in the process of being transported to a hospice facility in Kootenai County.
Willoughby was facing two counts of aggravated assault on a peace officer that stem from his actions on Oct. 29, 2018, in which he allegedly discharged a firearm at Shoshone County Sheriff’s deputies. The incident began around 12:19 a.m. that morning, when deputies John Richter and Jake Delaney responded to a report of suspicious activity in the area of F and Washington streets next to the old Sands Motel in Smelterville.
Upon arrival, the deputies located a 38-year-old male inside a motor home — which did not belong to him — parked on the northeast corner of the property belonging to Nickerson’s Towing. While the deputies were in the process of detaining the male, Willoughby exited a van parked just south of their position and began firing at them with a Ruger 357 revolver.
While taking action to keep the handcuffed detainee safe, both deputies proceeded to return fire and hit Willoughby three times.
He was initially saved by the deputies who returned fire, but Willoughby’s health has declined greatly since the incident and he is expected to die soon.
In accordance with Idaho Code 18-212(5), which states that a case must be dismissed if an individual is not fit to proceed and is incapable of being made fit, Allen agreed with the defense council to dismiss the charges.
• • •
The final item addressed on the Wednesday morning docket was the sentencing of Wilbur Allen.
Allen, multi-convicted felon from Seattle, was facing multiple charges stemming from his actions on Oct. 26, 2018, when he stopped at the Osburn 76 station while under the influence of methamphetamine. What started as a bizarre interaction between him and the store’s cashier devolved quickly into a high-speed pursuit throughout the town and Interstate 90. The incident ended after his vehicle was disabled by law enforcement with a spike strip.
Following a search of his person and vehicle, Allen was found to be in possession of heroin, marijuana, drug paraphernalia and trafficking amounts of methamphetamine.
In addition to the ones for the 2018 incident, he also received more charges in March when he was caught with heroin and makeshift weapons (shanks and knuckles) while in the Shoshone County Jail.
Allen ultimately pleaded guilty to felony counts of eluding an officer, possession of methamphetamine and heroin. Combined with his previous criminal history, a life sentence was entirely possible when he came in for sentencing.
Due in large part to the defendant’s willingness to take responsibility for his actions and eventually facing more charges from Washington, Ben Allen and the state recommended a 15-year unified prison sentence (five years fixed, 10 indeterminate).
“This sentence ensured first and foremost the protection of society,” Ben Allen said. “This defendant has had 13 prior felony convictions out of the state of Washington and this Idaho sentence is lengthier than any sentence he received in Washington.”
The longest sentence Wilbur Allen had served in Washington was 3.5 years for mistreatment of a child.
While Defense Attorney Erik Smith didn’t necessarily fight the state’s recommendation, he did ask Wayman to credit Wilbur Allen for the time he has already served in jail and assign him to some sort of rehabilitation program.
When it came time for Wilbur Allen to speak, he immediately seized the opportunity to address his arresting officer, who was present in the courtroom.
“You saved my life when you pulled me over,” he said. “I just want to thank you for that because I was in a very shitty state of mind.”
On top of apologizing for his making of weapons in the jail — saying that it was an act of boredom — he also added that he was thankful for the opportunity to do his PSI report and tell his story.
While the details of the PSI were not read aloud, they must have painted quite a picture for the judge, as he acknowledged it before he handed down the sentence.
“I have to tell you, Mr. Allen, I’ve read a lot of presentence reports in my career, and I’ve never read one quite like yours. The narrative you wrote in your family section was brutally honest. There’s a section in the PSI where the investigator puts forth significant family information. Usually, that section says ‘mom, dad, brother sister.’ It’s about three lines long. Yours was multiple pages … You have had a life full of trauma of every type that you can imagine, some that people wouldn’t even understand.”
Wayman decided to follow the state’s recommendation of a 15-year, unified sentence, but also gave Wilbur Allen credit for the time he has already served.
After he has served his sentence in Idaho, Wilbur Allen will be sent to Washington for an outstanding warrant he has there.
• • •
Wrapping up Law Day was the sentencing for Caleb Hill.
Hill was tried and convicted of rape on June 12 of this year following a two-day trial that included ample testimony from both sides.
In the case of the state of Idaho v. Caleb Hill, Hill was accused of raping his female victim after the two, along with Hill’s then-girlfriend, Brenda Kemp, had spent an evening together in September 2015 in which they consumed copious amounts of alcohol, along with marijuana and sleeping pills prior to the crime.
Later that evening after returning from the bar to Hill’s home, both parties claimed to have little to no recollection of the events that happened.
What is known, however, was the DNA sample from the victim proved that intercourse did happen between the victim and Hill, and what Chief Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Ben Allen argued was that in the state of mind that the victim was in, no consent could have been given.
Hill’s counsel argued that Hill himself was in an altered state of mind and neither Hill nor the victim would be able to remember if consent was granted.
During the trial, a defense that walked dangerously close to victim shaming was utilized, but the jury wasn’t phased by this attempt to discredit the victim and only needed 30 minutes of deliberation before coming back with a unanimous guilty verdict.
On Wednesday afternoon, Allen asked Judge Wayman to impose a unified 20-year sentence with 10 years fixed and 10 years indeterminate.
Daniel Sheckler, attorney for Hill, countered the state’s recommendation with a request for retained jurisdiction — commonly referred to as a rider.
Prior to making any decision, Wayman did allow both the victim and Hill to address the court.
“They say that forgiveness is always the thing,” the victim said. “But I’m still not to the point where I can forgive yet.”
A visibly shaken Hill turned and faced the victim during his addressing of the court, and apologized for the events of that night, while maintaining his lack of memory of the event itself.
“I don’t remember what happened that night, but I know I’m responsible for what happens when I use drugs and drink alcohol. I regret what I did when I was blacked out,” Hill said. “I’m sorry to you (redacted) for everything that’s happened. I don’t want it to happen ever again, and the only way I know I can make sure that happens is to stay clean and sober.”
Wayman maintained that the main goal of sentencing is the protection of society and while he acknowledged both sides made valid points as to their requests for sentencing, he also could not overlook Hill’s past and his tendency for being an opportunistic criminal.
In the end, Wayman went back to the root of the case before making his determination.
“The conduct that you exhibited violated not only a law, it violated the trust of a friend,” Wayman said. “It was a crime of drunken opportunity and should never have happened.”
Wayman agreed with the state’s recommendation and sentenced Hill to a 20-year unified sentence, including 10 years fixed and 10 years indeterminate.
Hill has been remanded into the custody of the Shoshone County Sheriff’s Office to await transportation to an Idaho State Correctional Facility.