Jury clears Boise man accused of attacking Iraqi woman

A Boise man accused of getting out of his van and attacking a woman originally from Iraq was acquitted last week of a charge that he committed a hate crime.

An Ada County jury on Friday found Brian Pottinger, 57, not guilty of felony malicious harassment, which falls under Idaho’s hate crime statute.

The woman, who has lived in Boise for five years, told police she was walking with her adult sister and her three children in the area of West Taft and North Silver streets in the Collister neighborhood, when Pottinger stopped his van behind them on June 13.

Through a court translator, she testified Pottinger was angry and agitated and swore at them.

The woman said Pottinger got out of his van, grabbed her by the back of her head and pulled it back. She said she started shaking and crying and that the action caused her to become dizzy and gave her a headache.

Both women said Pottinger pointed his finger at them and acted like he was shooting a pistol. The women said they felt threatened.

“Of course it was scary,” said the sister, who has lived in Boise eight years. “We just came from a war zone in Iraq.”

An 11-year-old daughter of the first woman testified Pottinger also yelled at them during an earlier confrontation on Memorial Day.

“Why are you people here?” the girl — speaking in English — said Pottinger yelled.

Pottinger denied getting out of his van or touching the woman. He said he became upset because the women were walking in the middle of the street and he had to cross into the oncoming lane to avoid hitting them.

The women said they were walking along the side of the road.

“My attitude was like, oh, no, not again,” Pottinger testified he thought before yelling at them. “Get out of the street. Get out of the f-----g street.”

Pottinger, who works as a house painter, said he had worked from 6:30 a.m. to past 7:30 p.m. He said he was tired and just wanted to get home.

“I lost my cool. I should have never snapped at them like that,” Pottinger said. “I’m a better man than that.”

Detective’s testimony illustrates interview tool

Detective Tim Brady of the Boise Police Department said Pottinger was angry and agitated when he was brought in for questioning. Pottinger said he was mad at being woken up past midnight, saying that he needed to get up by 4:30 a.m. to get ready for work.

Brady said Pottinger told him he didn’t like “these people” being here and living in his neighborhood. He said they walked in the street and acted like they “owned the road.”

Brady said he told Pottinger other witnesses said they saw him attack the woman and that they picked him out of a photo lineup. Neither statement was true.

When prosecutors asked if that was an interview technique he regularly employed, he said it was.

“I use it all the time,” Brady testified.

It’s a technique that’s withstood federal appeals, one notably more than 80 years ago.

In a 1932 Idaho murder case, police doctored a photograph to make it appear that suspect Doty Lewis’ fingerprint had been found on the tennis shoe of 12-year-old Mabel Sawyer. Sawyer had disappeared from her home on the Bannock Indian Reservation and her body was found three months later. She died after being choked.

Lewis later confessed.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals later upheld Lewis’ confession and conviction. The appeals court cited a 1916 New York case in finding that it was OK for police to lie to obtain a confession.

Earlier this year, the 9th Circuit upheld a conviction from a 2012 Montana drug sting where a Montana Highway Patrol trooper lied to a suspect about the reason he was pulled over during a traffic stop.

Police seized 2 pounds of methamphetamine used to convict the driver of federal drug charges.

John Sowell: 208-377-6423, @IDS_Sowell