Payette County paid $150,000 in June to settle a lawsuit over a 2011 crash where one of its deputies killed a New Plymouth man.
But the courtroom battle is not over.
Jackie Raymond is the daughter of Barry Johnson, the man killed in the crash. She asked the Idaho Supreme Court this week to resurrect one other claim: that Idaho State Police interfered with the crash investigation to such an extent, a prosecutor was forced to drop criminal charges against the deputy involved. That, Raymond says, left unanswered the deputy’s culpability and made it more difficult for the family to prove liability in a civil suit.
Raymond sued ISP and Payette County at the same time for wrongful death and “tortious interference.” But a judge dismissed ISP from the lawsuit while allowing the case against Payette County to go forward.
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“ISP was dismissed by the district judge because he decided that Idaho does not recognize a civil claim for what we alleged they did,” Raymond’s attorney, Nathan Olsen, told the Statesman at the time.
The appeal now focuses on that dismissal.
“This appeal will determine whether a civil claim exists when an investigating agency has engaged in unlawful conduct such as concealing evidence, harboring and protecting a defendant from criminal and civil liability, and intimidating, influencing, impeding, deterring, threatening, harassing and/or obstructing potential witnesses,” Olsen said on Friday.
An ISP spokesman said the agency has no comment on the appeal.
In the original complaint filed in February 2015, Raymond claimed ISP “conspired and attempted to, and did, cover up (Deputy Scott Sloan’s) misconduct … in order to shield Sloan and Payette County from liability and responsibility for Sloan’s aforesaid misconduct.”
ISP “engaged in an enterprise or conspiracy with Sloan to, and did in fact, willfully and with full knowledge of Sloan’s unlawful conduct, conceal evidence, harbor and protect Sloan from criminal and civil liability, and intimidate, influence, impede, deter, threaten, harass and obstruct witnesses or potential witnesses,” states the complaint.
Sloan struck Johnson’s 1983 Jeep on Oct. 18, 2011, as Johnson began to turn left off of a remote stretch of U.S. 30 near New Plymouth. Sloan was responding to a 911 call, and was driving at 100 mph or more with his lights and sirens on.
Gem County Prosecutor Richard Linville determined Johnson was not to blame for the fatal crash — Sloan was. Linville charged the deputy with felony vehicular manslaughter.
But less than two months before trial, in March 2013, Linville dropped the vehicular manslaughter charge. He said conflicting ISP crash-investigation reports and the untrustworthy conduct of the state trooper who led the investigation undermined his ability to prosecute the case.
This is the crux of Raymond’s tortious interference claim.
ISP’s handling of the investigation has already cost it at least $1 million.
Two state police investigators who worked on the Sloan crash investigation, Fred Rice and Brandon Eller, later sued ISP. Both alleged that they were ordered by command staff to shape the investigative report to protect the deputy, and suffered retaliation when they did not go along.
Rice retired. Eller still works at ISP.
Rice’s case was dismissed by an Ada County judge in October 2015, with the judge writing only that the evidence offered “no genuine issue of material fact.”
Eller’s case went to trial last year. An Ada County jury found in his favor and awarded him $1.5 million in August 2017. The judge reduced the award to $1 million, and Eller also has an appeal pending before the Idaho Supreme Court over the award reduction.