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In plea deal, ex-Columbia football coach to serve probation for allegedly lying to police

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The former Columbia High School football coach accused of attempting to obtain prescription drugs illegally appeared in court on Tuesday morning and pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of lying to police.

Jon Helmandollar, 35, was initially charged on suspicion of felony solicitation to commit a crime and misdemeanor resisting or obstructing police. On Tuesday, he pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor charge via an Alford plea.

In an Alford plea, the defendant does not admit guilt but acknowledges that there could be enough evidence for a jury to convict him.

The investigation into Helmandollar began after an Amber Alert was issued on March 20 regarding his child, who was taken out of state by his wife and was possibly in danger, according to police. The child was found safely in Cheney, Washington, and Helmandollar’s wife was never criminally charged.

When Nampa police spoke to Helmandollar about his missing daughter, he willfully lied about the girl’s whereabouts, officials said, leading to the misdemeanor obstruction charge.

Magistrate Judge John Meienhofer accepted Helmandollar’s plea and sentenced him to one year of probation and 90 days in jail, but suspended all but four days of the jail time. Helmandollar was credited for the four days he already served in jail.

Meienhofer also granted Helmandollar a withheld judgment, meaning that if Helmandollar successfully completes his probation, he could have the charge dismissed from his record. Helmandollar must complete a substance abuse evaluation while on probation.

Prosecutors dismissed the felony charge Helmandollar faced for solicitation to purchase prescription drugs. According to a probable cause affidavit filed at the time of the charging, Helmandollar attempted to obtain prescription drugs illegally from his wife and third parties over a seven-month span.

At a July court appearance, Helmandollar’s attorney claimed that her client’s constitutional right to the presumption of innocence and his right to a fair trial were violated by the Nampa Police Department after it sent out news releases to the media. His attorney, Edwina Elcox, also argued that the police department’s investigation went beyond the scope of the initial Amber Alert.

Helmandollar’s next review hearing is set for Feb. 7.

Helmandollar was hired as Columbia’s head coach in January 2018. He played running back at Boise State University from 2004-2007 before he was dismissed following a DUI arrest. He resigned as coach in May after the Amber Alert investigation.

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Reporter Ruth Brown covers the criminal justice and correctional systems in Idaho. She focuses on breaking news, public safety and social justice. Prior to coming to the Idaho Statesman, she was a reporter at the Idaho Press-Tribune, the Bakersfield Californian and the Idaho Falls Post Register.
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