Idaho lawmaker Mark Patterson could lose weapons license over old Florida guilty plea

Mark Patterson says ‘the cops lied’ in a rape case in 1974 that led to a withheld judgment in Florida. Now, he says, Sheriff Raney seeks to ‘silence’ him.

dpopkey@idahostatesman.comNovember 10, 2013 

  • PRIMARY CHALLENGER EMERGES

    Patrick E. McDonald is running to replace Rep. Mark Patterson in the May 2014 Republican primary in West Boise’s District 15.

    McDonald was appointed U.S. marshal for Idaho by President George W. Bush, serving from 2002 to 2010. He spent 33 years as an Idaho State Police officer, retiring as a captain.

    McDonald, 66, established his campaign in August, allowing him to raise money. His campaign co-chairs are former GOP Rep. Max Black and former GOP Sen. John Andreason. Black defeated Patterson in 2010, but Patterson won the seat in 2012 after Black retired.

    McDonald is familiar in legislative circles as the husband of Senate Sergeant at Arms Sarah Jane McDonald.

    He is critical of Patterson’s House Bill 219, which would have made it a misdemeanor for Idaho law enforcement officials to help enforce any new federal restrictions on semiautomatic firearms or ammunition or any new registration requirements.

    “What I hate to see is something that may well be detrimental to a good working relationship,” McDonald said. “I thoroughly enjoyed working with local law enforcement. I have tremendous respect for them. It’s the hardest work there is.”

    Before filing with the secretary of state, McDonald said he told former Ada County Sheriff Vaughn Killeen that he was running. Killeen is now executive director of the Idaho Sheriffs’ Association and clashed with Patterson over HB 219.

    McDonald said he informed Killeen as a courtesy to longtime professional friend.

    “I just wanted him to know,” he said.

    McDonald said he was not encouraged to run by Killeen or Ada County Sheriff Gary Raney, president of the sheriffs’ association, “in any way, shape or form.”

    The association does not endorse candidates.

    Democrat Steve Berch got 47 percent of the vote against Patterson in 2012. Berch said that he’s focused on his new duties as a board member of the Boise Auditorium District but that he hasn’t ruled out a 2014 race for the House. The filing deadline for the 2014 election is March 14.

  • ABOUT DAN POPKEY

    Dan has covered Idaho politics and the Legislature since 1987. He started with the Statesman in 1984 as a police reporter.

Ada County Sheriff Gary Raney says Rep. Mark Patterson falsified his application for a concealed weapons license when he failed to disclose his guilty plea to assault with intent to commit rape in Tampa.

Patterson, then 21, was charged with forcible rape in May 1974. The victim, then a 46-year-old mother of five, told police that Patterson forced her to have sex twice and threatened to have his Doberman pinscher attack her if she refused, according to police reports.

In July 1974, after some jail time, Patterson agreed to plead guilty to the lesser assault with intent charge, receiving a withheld judgment and five years’ probation. He was ordered to leave Florida with his father on the day of his sentencing. Two years later, he was released from his probation, three years early.

“I was a young kid,” the freshman Republican from Boise told the Statesman. “I was charged with a crime I didn’t do. My attorney told me to take the deal. There would be no jail time, it would be off my record.”

In both 2007 and 2012, Patterson successfully applied for a concealed weapons license in Ada County. But earlier this year, Raney told the Statesman, the sheriff’s office got a tip that Patterson had lied to receive those licenses.

“They were aware of this charge in his history and therefore knew that in order to obtain one he must have falsified his application,” Raney said. “We did our due diligence, and from that a hearing was ultimately held and his concealed weapons permit was revoked.”

WITHHELD JUDGMENT

Idaho law empowers sheriffs to revoke licenses for several reasons, including “fraud or intentional misrepresentation.” In a May 22 letter, which Patterson provided to the Statesman, Raney wrote Patterson about his 2012 application: “(Y)ou ... falsely stated that you had never had an entry of a withheld judgment for a criminal offense which would disqualify you from obtaining a concealed weapons license.”

Assault with intent to commit rape is a felony involving the use or threat of violence, Raney wrote, adding, “(Y)our application contained a material falsehood when you represented you had no withheld judgment entered in such a case.”

A withheld judgment is an option judges often use in plea bargains. Florida law defines it as “an order withholding guilt and placing defendant on probation.”

Joe Mallet, a lawyer in the Ada County Sheriff’s Office, held a revocation hearing in late August. On Oct. 29, Raney informed Patterson that the license would be revoked. Patterson was given 14 days to file an administrative appeal and says he hasn’t decided how to proceed. He also could challenge the revocation in district court.

Patterson’s attorney, Wade Woodard, said Raney should not have discussed the case with the Statesman because concealed weapons licenses are exempt from public disclosure.

“Details about concealed weapons permits are protected,” Raney said. “The fact that we properly acted when we learned of a violation is not.”

Woodard also questioned the relevance of the withheld judgment, arguing that despite his guilty plea, Patterson did not receive a felony conviction because he satisfactorily completed the terms of his sentence. “Technically, it’s sitting there, but it’s meaningless as far as the law is concerned,” Woodard said.

The Idaho license application form, however, simply reads: “Have you ever had an entry of a withheld judgment for a criminal offense which would disqualify you from obtaining a concealed weapons license?”

On July 11, 1974, the judge entered such an order on the day of Patterson’s guilty plea.

WHAT HAPPENED IN 1974?

Shortly before 1 a.m. on that May 15, Patterson was at Tampa’s Liberty Lounge. Seeing a woman crying in the bar parking lot, Patterson offered to drive her to her home in his 1962 Simca sedan, according to police reports.

Instead, the 6-foot-2, 180-pound Patterson took her to his apartment, forced her from his car, chased her when she ran, caught her, put his hand over her mouth and forced her upstairs to his apartment, the reports say.

There, Patterson introduced her to Thor, his 85-pound Doberman. The 17-month-old black dog was bred and raised by Patterson and registered with the American Kennel Club.

Patterson said “that if she did not do as he told her, he would turn the dog loose on her,” the woman told police, and that “the dog would attack on command.”

The woman also told police that Patterson said he belonged to a motorcycle gang “and they would come after her if she told anyone about him.”

Patterson agreed to a polygraph. The examiner’s report said Patterson “was untruthful” when questioned about Thor and concluded that he “did threaten the young lady in question with his dog and caused her to be fearful for her safety if she had not submitted herself to him sexually.”

After his arrest, Patterson returned with police to the apartment to retrieve the dog and “was the only one who could control the dog,” according to reports. Patterson put the dog on a choker chain and muzzle, and it was impounded.

WHAT DOES PATTERSON SAY?

Patterson told the Statesman that he has no memory of that night, attributing the memory lapse to six months of chemotherapy to treat a hepatitis C virus in 2003. Patterson said he contracted the disease at the dentist.

“I don’t remember my first car, I don’t remember my first girlfriend, I don’t remember my first motorcycles,” he said.

Offered a copy of the police report to refresh his recollection, Patterson said, “No, this is not going to refresh my memory. I’ve never read the police report. I do know that the cops lied. And, you know, that’s one of the reasons I went ahead and took the deal because I shouldn’t even have been arrested.”

Patterson called the dog “a puppy ... they’re puppies until they’re about 2 years old.” Despite his memory loss, Patterson said, “I don’t threaten people with dogs. ... I know I wouldn’t have because that’s not my demeanor.”

As for the alleged gang threat, Patterson said that although he has long been a motorcycle enthusiast, he has “never, ever been in a motorcycle gang. ... They were violent, they had no respect for human beings and people’s dignity.”

Patterson repeated that he’s certain police lied. He could not explain his absence of memory about other details, except to attribute it to chemotherapy. He remembers Thor because he has photos of the dog, he said. But he has no pictures of him in a gang, he said, which he would have had he been a member.

“How many times do I have to say no, I don’t remember it?” Patterson said. “You’re trying to twist it when I say ‘I know my nature.’ I know who I am, you know.”

The Tampa police report in 1974 notes that Patterson had a prior record of assault and battery, but the Statesman could find no such record.

In July 1977, three years after leaving Florida for Ohio, Patterson was charged with rape “by means of forcibly choking and threatening” the life of a woman in Cincinnati. A judge acquitted Patterson in September 1977 after a brief trial.

“I was acquitted — then obviously I didn’t do it,” Patterson said. Patterson said he doesn’t recall the case, but said his brother reminded him about it this year. Patterson would not help the Statesman identify and contact his brother as a corroborating source, saying he was 68 and recently widowed.

“I know this: I’m not a convicted criminal. I can go to a gun store and fill out the form and the FBI gives me a gun right now,” he said.

POLITICAL MOTIVES AS OLD CHARGES SURFACE?

Patterson said Raney is targeting him because he scrutinized Idaho sheriffs’ spending and policies.

“This whole thing is to silence me, is to shut me down and silence me and get me the hell out of the way,” he said.

Hogwash, said Raney.

“The questions that Mr. Patterson raises and the allegations he makes are irrelevant to the fact that he lied on his initial application and his renewal application,” Raney said. “That, and only that, is the reason for our actions. ... As to any retaliation, it is simply false and I presume an attempt to deflect the truth of the matter.”

Patterson authored House Bill 219 in the 2013 Legislature, which would have made it a misdemeanor for Idaho law enforcement officials to help enforce any new federal restrictions on semiautomatic firearms or ammunition or any new registration requirements. The measure was drafted to pre-empt any federal action in the wake of the Connecticut school shooting that killed 26 in December 2012.

Raney opposed the bill, which passed the House and died in the Senate without a hearing.

On May 10, after the Legislature adjourned, Patterson wrote formal complaints against Mike Kane, the lobbyist for the Idaho Sheriffs’ Association, and Vaughn Killeen, the group’s executive director. Raney is president of the association this year. Killeen was Ada County sheriff for 20 years and supported Raney, his undersheriff, to succeed him in 2004. Like Patterson, Raney and Killeen are Republicans.

Patterson said Kane and Killeen lobbied against HB 219 — the association was officially neutral — and failed to comply with the lobbying disclosure laws administered by Secretary of State Ben Ysursa.

Raney “had his boys go under the radar screen,” Patterson said.

RANEY: ‘RABID’ OR ‘FIRM’?

Rep. Judy Boyle, R-Midvale, a former NRA lobbyist who helped write the 1990 concealed weapons law, was designated to manage gun bills and was among 25 co-sponsors of Patterson’s bill.

Boyle said Raney complained that the bill would dismantle local-federal cooperation and cost Idaho law enforcement valuable revenue under asset-forfeiture laws for drug and gang cases.

“He was rabid about it, seriously,” Boyle said. “He was yelling on the phone.”

But Rep. Gayle Batt, R-Wilder, who was on the same call along with Canyon County Sheriff Kieran Donahue, said she doesn’t recall any yelling.

“(The sheriffs’) concern was that we didn’t jeopardize what they were doing,” Batt told the Statesman. “They were definitely firm that it was important to them.”

Raney said his opposition was as an individual sheriff and “because it was bad law.” He also said the bill would not have affected forfeitures.

Added Raney: “Anyone who knows me knows I would never yell or otherwise be ‘rabid’ in such a conversation.”

After an inquiry by Ysursa, Kane twice amended his lobbying report to reflect he’d lobbied several gun measures. His first amendment on May 15 did not mention HB 219.

Kane filed the second amendment May 23, after Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis, R-Idaho Falls, pointed out that Kane had spoken with him about HB 219. Kane had provided Davis with a list of four local, state and federal law enforcement partnerships that opponents said could be jeopardized by the bill.

Killeen hadn’t registered as a lobbyist but agreed to do so on May 15. He said his lobbying was so minimal he was exempt, but wrote, “I understand that perceptions can cause misunderstandings and registering as a lobbyist removes all doubt.”

FOLLOWING THE MONEY

The second reason Raney would target him, Patterson said, is a line of questioning he began after Ysursa closed the lobbying complaint.

“I wanted to know if Kane and Killeen were paid with taxpayer money to corrupt the legislative process,” Patterson told the Statesman.

On May 21, Patterson wrote Raney and Killeen asking for Idaho Sheriffs’ Association financial records for 2012 and the first half of 2013.

“I would like to see details of all incoming money that is public and private,” Patterson wrote. “Also all expenses in detail, to whom, who and or what in the amount received.”

That letter was received at Raney’s office May 22 — the same day Raney wrote Patterson to inform him that he was moving to revoke the lawmaker’s concealed weapons license.

“I sent ’em a letter asking a question and the day they got the letter is the day they started this,” Patterson said.

Patterson said he now believes that the association — which reported $831,000 in revenue to the IRS in 2010 — is illegal, as are more than a dozen other nonprofit groups that are operated by elected officials as private individuals but financed in part with tax money.

The Idaho Association of Counties, with 2010 revenue of $1.8 million, is among the largest. Others include the Association of Idaho Cities; Idaho Association of Highway Districts; and nonprofits representing county commissioners, clerks and prosecutors; school boards and superintendents; and police chiefs and Idaho State Police. The groups are funded by dues, donations from individuals, grants and revenue from training and other services. They spend their money on training, issue advocacy and administrative services such as unemployment insurance, among other things.

“These guys are doing something big-time illegal,” Patterson said. “I’ve been working on doing some legislation to expose it so that people will be able to step in and shut it down.”

‘MISREADING THE LAW’

Patterson cites a 1986 opinion authored by deputy attorneys general David High and Dan Chadwick, who said school districts were barred by the Idaho Constitution from creating or aiding nonprofit corporations.

But, the lawyers said, district officials “acting in a private capacity” may create a nonprofit corporation in support of schools.

In 1989, Chadwick authored a related opinion saying such associations could spend tax money to lobby and that their records are exempt from public disclosure.

Chadwick, now executive director of the Association of Counties, said of Patterson, “He is very badly misreading the law.”

Replied Patterson: “I guess he knows how to explain it away.”

Asked why he hasn’t requested a new opinion from Attorney General Lawrence Wasden, Patterson said he’d been distracted since the May 22 letter from Raney.

“I’ve been dealing with this crap,” he said.

On May 24, the sheriffs’ association denied Patterson’s request for its records.

ACCUSED OF MISSTATEMENTS BEFORE

A month after he was elected in November 2012, Patterson acknowledged that his campaign website mistakenly said he was a petroleum engineer and had attended the University of Southern California. Neither was true.

His claim that he was a “professional road-racing cyclist” also was disputed in an Associated Press article. USA Cycling said Patterson was licensed in its second-lowest amateur division from 1993 to 1998. Patterson said the distinction was a technicality, saying he was paid $1,000 a month in 1994 and 1995 to market bike lubricant.

Patterson’s job outside the Legislature is as owner of Rock ‘N’ Roll Lubricants, which manufactures lubricants for bikes, motorcycles and firearms.

Patterson declined to offer details about much of his background. In 2012, he told the Statesman he studied “science, business and technology” at “numerous colleges and universities.”

He has said his mother was a plastic surgeon and his father retired as a major after 26 years in the Air Force. Both parents are deceased. Patterson said he was born in Cincinnati, but declined to say where he has lived or list his occupations over the years.

The online research service LexisNexis says Patterson has lived in Ohio, California, Nevada, Arizona and Idaho. Patterson said he was in Florida in May 1974 for a cycling race, staying in a friend’s apartment.

Patterson said his constituents don’t have any interest in knowing he’s twice been charged with rape and once pleaded guilty to assault with intent to commit the offense.

“I’ve never been convicted of a crime, so there’s nothing to know,” he said.

Rep. Boyle said she has “a hard time believing” the sheriff received a tip. She said she thinks Raney went looking for dirt and found the 1974 arrest.

“It doesn’t pass the smell test,” Boyle said. “Raney, definitely from everything I’ve seen, would love to get rid of Mark Patterson. But he needs to remember there are a lot of other people who will take up (HB) 219. He hasn’t eliminated his problem.”

Raney said his office records don’t show why Patterson’s criminal history was overlooked in the application process.

“This matter was handled in the same way we would have handled it regardless of who the permit holder was,” Raney said.

Raney declined to identify the tipster, but said the information came “with enough details to be credible.”

MORE FALLOUT

Patterson, 61, is married with two young children. He said that his wife knows about the Florida case but that other family members are unaware.

“If this comes out — and I’m not guilty — it will absolutely destroy my family,” he said.

Concealed weapons license applicants swear that their statements are true under penalty of perjury. Asked whether the matter might be referred for possible prosecution, Raney said the office is “continuing to investigate whether criminal violations occurred.”

Boyle is one of three Republicans and two Democrats on the House Ethics Committee who would take up an ethics complaint against Patterson, should a member of the House lodge one.

No complaints have been filed against any House member this year, said Chairman Lynn Luker, R-Boise. Under a House rule passed this year, complaints are confidential until the committee finds probable cause.

House Speaker Scott Bedke said Boyle’s involvement might present a conflict of interest, should a complaint be made.

“But I’m not ready to say that — that would be a call of the committee, not mine,” Bedke said.

Of Patterson’s 1974 guilty plea, Bedke said, “That’s certainly a serious matter.”

Even if the revocation order becomes final, Patterson still will be able to carry a concealed weapon as long as he remains in office. More than 3,000 elected officials — from fire, cemetery and sewer district directors to governor — are exempt from the license requirement under Idaho law.

Dan Popkey: 377-6438, Twitter: @IDS_politics

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