The two ex-Canyon County jail deputies accused of plotting an attack on an inmate in act of revenge pleaded guilty Tuesday through an Alford plea and were ordered to serve three days in jail.
Third Judicial District Magistrate Judge John Meienhofer accepted the guilty pleas of Kade McConnell, 27, of Caldwell, and Corey Weathermon, 46, of Nampa. In an Alford plea, the defendants do not admit guilt, but acknowledge there is enough evidence for a jury to potentially convict them.
Canyon County turned the case over the Ada County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, and deputy prosecutor Shelley Akamatsu filed the charges.
Weathermon and McConnell pleaded guilty to misdemeanor attempted aiding and abetting or solicitation to commit battery, charges that were amended down from felony solicitation to commit battery.
Akamatsu asked the judge to impose three months of jail time for each man, the maximum sentence allowed. But defense attorneys argued that the evidence was unreliable and the deputies did not commit crimes worthy of jail time.
The men were charged after authorities claimed the deputies attempted to retaliate against then-inmate Sergio Gonzalez. Gonzalez attempted to escape the Canyon County jail on Oct. 9, 2017. He assaulted a jail deputy in the process. On Oct. 17, 2017, the Canyon County Sheriff’s Office received word that McConnell and Weathermon plotted to retaliate.
After lengthy arguments from the prosecutor and the defense, Meienhofer sentenced both men to one year of unsupervised probation and 90 days of jail. All but three days of the time were suspended. The judge credited Weathermon for the one day he has already served and the two days McConnell already served.
The men must also serve 40 hours of community service.
They will not serve the jail time in Canyon or Ada counties, due to safety concerns, but they will serve it in a county jail within the 3rd Judicial District.
Akamatsu explained in court that the charges were amended to misdemeanors only because the plot never came to volition and Gonzalez was never actually injured. But she argued that the deputies arranged “a violent hit on a person for revenge,” and their weapon of choice was multiple gang members in the maximum security area of the jail.
She went on to explain that after Gonzalez assaulted one deputy, there was a briefing at the jail and the Canyon County Sheriff’s Office stressed to all deputies that they should not retaliate. McConnell and Weathermon had received training on the importance of not retaliating.
Investigators claimed McConnell passed information to other inmates in the Canyon County jail, showing that Gonzalez was in custody for several child sex crimes. Weathermon reportedly told authorities that McConnell was going to ask gang members in the jail what would happen if they knew Gonzalez was in custody for a child sex crime, according to reports.
The Idaho Statesman chose not to release the name of the inmate who was solicited because he was not charged in the case.
Akamatsu said the deputies had four days to cool off before they came back to the jail and gave the inmate information about Gonzalez’s history.
In addition, Akamatsu said the men opened the county to liability, and that’s one reason why they allowed them to plead guilty through Alford pleas.
Akamatsu said the inmate they solicited testified that the deputies wanted them to put Gonzalez “in the hospital” the way he put their fellow deputy in the hospital. She said she was worried about the kind of message it would send to other jail deputies if Weathermon and McConnell were given less than 90 days in jail.
“I object to any appearance of these two being treated differently because, you know, they are just inmates,” she said about the public perception. “(Inmates) are people. These are human beings that we are trusting them to take care of. And they violated that trust.”
Weathermon and McConnell were fired from the sheriff’s office on Oct. 30, 2017. Both defendants claimed Tuesday that they never specifically said they wanted the gang members to assault Gonzalez.
Defense attorney Kevin Dinius represented Weathermon, and attorney Alex Briggs represented McConnell. Both attorneys claim the inmate in question who said he was solicited by the deputies for a “hit” on Gonzalez had his own motives.
Briggs presented recordings of the inmate’s jail calls in which he is heard speaking to his wife about how “this could be me getting out” and there was going to be a lawsuit worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Briggs alleges the inmate was setting up the deputies because “they saw an opportunity” for either money or a way out of jail. He argued that while his client may have violated the sheriff’s office’s policy, he did not solicit an assault.
“Was it a violation of (jail) policy? Absolutely,” Briggs said.” Was it a crime? Not even close.”
Dinius also argued that Weathermon, a law enforcement officer of 20 years, had a clean record before the incident.
Dinius said the former deputies never offered to pay the inmates to assault Gonzalez, nor did they specify what they wanted to happen.
Meienhofer said prior to sentencing that it wasn’t until Tuesday that he’d heard the jail recordings of the inmate talking about his alleged motives. Learning of the recording changed his opinion and sentence.
The judge said he was especially disappointed in Weathermon, because he had 20 years of law enforcement experience, whereas McConnell had been there less than two years.
“Both of you gentlemen are honorable men,” Meienhofer said in court. “I simply evaluate this as heat of the moment passion, failing to follow proper procedure. As a result of that failure, some great harm could have happened, but it did not.”