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Monday, February 26, 2024
Feb. 26, 2024

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Judge dismisses conspiracy to riot charge against Patriot Front founder, prosecutors appeal

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Spokane — A judge has dismissed charges against the leader of a white nationalist group that prosecutors say intended to disrupt a Pride event last year in downtown Coeur d’Alene.

Now, the Coeur d’Alene Prosecuting Attorney’s Office is appealing the dismissal.

Founder Thomas Rousseau and 30 other Patriot Front members were charged with conspiring to riot by disturbing the peace at Pride in the Park in June 2022.

The men piled into a U-Haul truck bound for the LGBTQ+ event when police stopped them on Northwest Boulevard just north of Coeur d’Alene City Park.

Since then, 28 of the 31 men resolved their cases with pleas, jury convictions and now, two dismissals.

Magistrate Judge John Cafferty ruled Rousseau’s dismissal “will serve the ends of justice and the effective administration of the Court’s business,” according to the order of dismissal filed Nov. 3.

Cafferty wrote the case is “very old” for a misdemeanor. Rousseau was scheduled to go to trial Monday.

“This case has languished for well over a year, with some of the delay attributable to both parties.”

The court cited a U.S. Supreme Court case, Brady v. Maryland, that established that prosecutors must disclose all evidence that could exonerate a defendant.

“The Defense’s repeated and timely attempts to gain access to potentially exculpatory information, information the Court has repeatedly ruled is material and relevant has gone without appropriate response by the State.”

Earlier this year, Magistrate Judge Destry Randles dismissed the case against Patriot Front member Richard Jessop, in part because Randles ruled prosecutors failed to properly disclose evidence.

The Coeur d’Alene Prosecuting Attorney’s Office appealed Cafferty’s decision to the District Court of Idaho’s First Judicial District. It asked the court to review whether the decision to grant Rousseau’s motion to dismiss was based on “clearly erroneous and patently one-sided findings of fact …”

Prosecutors argued certain orders — which Cafferty alleged prosecutors did not comply with — overstepped the boundaries of an Idaho Criminal Rule.

They also questioned whether the court: misapplied the analysis in Brady v. Maryland, granted the dismissal when “several less drastic and more proportional alternatives were available to address the various issues alleged,” and allowed “impermissible bias against a specific attorney for Appellant” that was displayed during the proceedings in the case and influenced the decision to dismiss.

Rousseau’s attorney, Kinzo Mihara, wrote in an email that his client has professed his innocence throughout the case.

“The record of this case supports the Judge’s very thorough and well-reasoned decision, and my client is hopeful and confident that the dismissal of this case will be upheld on appeal,” Mihara wrote.

Wes Somerton, chief criminal deputy city attorney, could not be reached by phone Wednesday because a prosecutor’s office employee said he was out of the office.

Of the 31 Patriot Front men, 18 pleaded guilty to the amended charge of failure to obtain a parade permit, an infraction, and ordered to pay $456.50.

Seven men were convicted of the conspiracy charge after two trials over the summer. The five men in the first trial were sentenced to three days in jail, one year of probation and $1,000 in fines. The other two were given two years of probation and $1,000 in fines.

Another member was sentenced one year ago to two years of probation and a $500 fine after pleading guilty to disturbing the peace.

The cases for Jared Boyce, Graham Whitson and Branden Haney have not been resolved.

In an unrelated case, Boyce pleaded guilty to child pornography charges earlier this year and was sentenced to jail. His conspiracy to riot case status is listed as “inactive pending,” and no court hearings are scheduled, according to the Idaho Court Portal.

The portal indicates Whitson failed to appear for trial in March and a bench warrant was issued. No hearings are scheduled for him.

Haney is scheduled for trial Jan. 29.

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