Two trials against the Idaho State Police are scheduled next summer over allegations that the agency covered up its investigation of a speeding county sheriff’s deputy’s 2011 collision with a Jeep that killed its driver.
Payette County Sheriff’s Deputy Scott Sloan was traveling faster than 100 mph at times while responding to a 911 call when his patrol car struck the Jeep. Sloan was trying to pass it on U.S. 30 near New Plymouth when its driver, Barry Johnson, 65, of New Plymouth, tried to make a left turn. The collision killed Johnson.
The deputy was responding to a call from a child who said a stranger was in his house.
In one lawsuit, an ISP crash investigator says his bosses wanted the investigative report changed to protect the deputy. In the other, Johnson’s daughter says an ISP coverup kept her wrongful-death lawsuit against Sloan and the county from going to trial.
“While ISP cannot comment specifically on any pending litigation, we look forward to resolving the allegations that have not already been dismissed by the court at trial,” said ISP spokeswoman Teresa Baker last week.
Another ISP crash investigator, Fred Rice, sued in 2014, alleging the agency retaliated against him and forced him to retire early. The agency denied his claims, and District Judge Cheri Copsey rejected them in October 2015, saying “the evidence presented establishes that there is no genuine issue of material fact.”
Here are the latest details:
The investigator’s lawsuit: A State Police crash investigator, Brandon Eller, is one of three employees to allege that ISP leaders wanted results of the investigation changed and then punished officers who did not go along.
Eller said the State Police have been retaliating against him for expressing concerns about unethical and possibly illegal activities related to crash-reconstruction work. Eller, who still works for the State Police, said the retaliation includes reassigning him to night and weekend patrol duty and denying him pay increases.
Eller sued in Ada County in January 2015. Fourth District Judge Timothy Hansen later denied a State Police motion to dismiss the lawsuit. Trial is set for Aug. 14, 2017, before Hansen in Boise.
The victim’s daughter’s lawsuit: Jackie Raymond, daughter of Barry Johnson, sued the State Police for “tortious interference,” saying ISP’s “cover-up and interference” and “evidence tampering” made it more difficult for the family to prove liability and defeated her wrongful-death case.
Raymond sued in Ada County in February 2015. The trial was later moved to Payette County. ISP first sought to dismiss the case but later withdrew the request. Trial is set for July 24, 2017, before 3rd District Judge Christopher Nye in Payette.
Raymond lives in Caldwell, where she owns a bail bond company.
Sloan resigned from Payette County on Feb. 15, in February 2012. According to Idaho Police Officer Standards and Training, which certifies all state and local law enforcement officers, Sloan has not worked as a law enforcement officer in Idaho since then.
Trial set in civil-rights case against trooper
Meanwhile, a federal judge in Boise has scheduled a trial Feb. 21 involving another Idaho State Police officer whose role in the Sloan investigation led Gem County’s prosecuting attorney to complain.
The trial against Trooper Justin Klitch involves a separate incident involving an Arizona driver who said Klitch violated the man’s civil rights.
Klitch was one of the investigators of the Sloan crash. Gem County Prosecutor Richard Linville said Klitch botched his manslaughter case against Sloan.
In March 2013, Linville sent a letter to the State Police asking that Klitch no longer patrol in Gem County so that Linville would “not be put in a position of having to rely on (Klitch) to testify in prosecution of criminal cases in this jurisdiction.”
The State Police rejected Linville’s request in a letter that said in part: “It is unfortunate that you and Trooper Klitch failed to find common ground on this case, and it is the opinion of the Idaho State Police that Trooper Klitch conducted an unbiased investigation into this unfortunate crash, and looked at the case in its entirety prior to forming opinions.”
Klitch was promoted to detective in June 2015 and now works in North Idaho.
The Arizona man, Jose Castillo, said Klitch targeted him for a traffic stop on May 16, 2014, because he was driving a car with Arizona plates.
Castillo said Klitch followed him “for many miles and for more than 10 minutes” before pulling him over for failing to move into the left lane while passing a stopped emergency vehicle.
After Castillo told Klitch that he has obsessive compulsive disorder, which causes him to be sensitive to any lack of cleanliness, Klitch told Castillo that his doctor told him “he had more germs than anyone he had ever met before” and made other comments that Castillo alleges was intended to increase his anxiety. Klitch’s comments were captured on his patrol car’s dashboard camera.
Klitch found nothing illegal and told Castillo he was free to go.
Castillo filed a lawsuit on May 21, 2015, in federal court alleging his car was illegally searched, his rights under the American with Disabilities Act were violated and ISP failed to properly train Klitch.
Chief Judge B. Lynn Winmill in Boise dismissed Castillo’s claims of negligent training and ADA violations but allowed the civil rights claim to go to trial.