A Middleton man faces up to 10 years in prison for showing his rifle to the wrong person.
At least twice, James Eric Burrow, 43, brought out a Henry Repeating Arms lever-action .22-caliber rifle at his home and showed it to Kevin Ratigan.
Ratigan is a bond recovery agent. He went to Burrow’s home in Middleton several times beginning last November to search for Burrow’s stepbrother, Matthew Cohagan.
Cohagan had failed to show up for a court hearing on theft and drug charges. That prompted a judge to issue a warrant for his arrest. It also placed the $20,000 bond put up on Cohagan’s behalf by Beneficial Bail Bonds, of Boise, in jeopardy of being forfeited. Burrow co-signed on the bond, giving permission for Beneficial’s recovery agents to enter his home and search for Cohagan if necessary.
Burrow showed Ratigan his gun. But Burrow is a felon, prohibited from possessing firearms because of a 2006 conviction for possession of a controlled substance. Ratigan reported the gun to the Canyon County Sheriff’s Office.
In January, deputies obtained a search warrant and found the gun and some ammunition at Burrow’s home in the 300 block of North Dewey Avenue. They also found Cohagan hiding in a padlocked bathroom. Burrow had previously told Ratigan that no one had a key to open the bathroom.
In court, Burrow challenged the search warrant, saying Ratigan had acted as an agent of the Sheriff’s Office. Through his defense attorney, Mark Ackley, Burrow said the Sheriff’s Office encouraged Ratigan to search Burrow’s home, so the evidence violated Burrow’s Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable search and seizure.
“The record reflects that (sheriff’s detective Don) Davenport indirectly encouraged Ratigan to search Mr. Burrow’s home for new information that could be used in his investigation,” Ackley wrote. “Consequently, Ratigan was an instrument or agent of the government.”
Chief U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill rejected Ackley’s argument. “Notably, Davenport did not request that Ratigan go back to the Burrow residence,” Winmill wrote in an opinion dated July 8. “He did not tell Ratigan he should report any more criminal activity to him. He did not tell Ratigan to contact him if he had more information about Burrow.”
On Monday, Winmill found Burrow guilty in a stipulated facts trial. In such a trial, both sides agree to certain facts but no evidence is presented. Burrow admitted possessing the firearm but reserved the right to appeal Winmill’s refusal to suppress the evidence.
Burrow faces up to 10 years in federal prison and a fine of up to $250,000 when he is sentenced Oct. 26. He will also forfeit ownership of what he affectionately called his “little play toy.”
Cohagan, 32, was sent to the Idaho State Correctional Center in Kuna, where he is doing time for grand theft by possession and possession of a controlled substance. He is scheduled for a parole hearing in September 2017.