Silence for most child victims of sexual abuse

In 2007, the rape and attempted murder of a 5-year-old Nampa girl shocked Idahoans. Just as horrifying as the crime: The age of suspect Kenneth Trevor Reizenstein, who was just 12 years old.

What to do with Reizenstein, how to punish him, put the Idaho court system in a difficult spot. And rightfully so. In America, we don’t treat juveniles the same as adults, in detention or in any other aspect of society.

The Idaho Supreme Court eventually ruled 4-1 the young man could be tried as an adult, and in 2009, the court sentenced Reizenstein to 20 years in prison, with the possibility of parole when he turned 21. He was recently released.

I’ve thought about him as I’ve read the recent stories about the alleged sexual assault of a 5-year-old girl in Twin Falls. I’ve also thought of the boys, the youngest of which is just 7 years old. The other two are only 10 and 13. We know little else, as the case — like the vast majority involving juvenile suspects — is sealed. You would think that would give pause, however slight, to those wanting to comment on the incident.

That wasn’t the case. Reports of the alleged assault (initially peppered with false information about Syrian refugees raping the girl at knife-point) prompted angry residents to show up to the last three Twin Falls City Council meetings demanding answers.

I worked at the Twin Falls Times-News for almost six years. In all of the Monday evening city council meetings I covered, I never witnessed a single member of the public testify on behalf of abused children.

And there were plenty of victims whose stories hit the paper. That, sadly, hasn’t changed. A search for “lewd conduct” on brought up multiple cases from 2016 alone. A Twin Falls man accused of sexually abusing two minors. A Burley man accused of sexually abusing a 13-year-old. A Rupert woman pleading guilty to sexual contact with a 13-year-old. A Jerome man accused of molesting a 12-year-old.

These examples are among many from just the last two months, but none sparked the same social media lynch mob. The difference? Those suspects weren’t refugees.

We know sexual abuse is shockingly prevalent in our society. According to the National Center for Victims of Crime, 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 20 boys has been a victim of sexual abuse. Many of those perpetrators will never face justice; The Children’s Assessment Center reports 73 percent of child victims don’t tell anyone about their abuse for at least a year, and nearly half don’t tell anyone for at least five years. I don’t need statistics to tell you not all victims are believed — I know that from the experiences of loved ones.

But there’s no outrage on those children’s behalf.

We’ve accepted that sexual abuse from our neighbors and family is unremarkable — that it’s only outrageous when it’s perpetrated by an imagined other.

As a society, we should talk more about the sexual abuse of children. We should be angry. We should teach our sons and daughters about abuse, both to protect them from becoming victims and prevent them from becoming perpetrators.

And we shouldn’t let the victims’ trauma get hijacked.


Feeling Berned

By Melissa Davlin

Two years after the Republican State Convention imploded in Moscow, Gem State Democrats are seeing a similar split in their party.

And while the infighting isn’t yet on the same level, it has the same origins: New party members who aren’t afraid to ruffle feathers for their convictions.

The disconnect between grassroots Bernie Sanders supporters and rank-and-file Idaho Democrats grew wider at the party’s state convention on Friday. During public hearings at Boise’s Riverside Hotel, Bernie-ites passionately testified about standing up for their ideology. Those working on tight legislative races warily welcomed the newcomers while worrying that proposed issue statements on controversial topics — such as drug decriminalization — would jeopardize their candidates and hand even more seats to Republicans in November’s general election.

Democrats united on Saturday to nearly unanimously pass a new platform — one-upping Republicans, whose civil war has prevented them from changing the platform they adopted in 2012. But for a while on Friday, Democrats risked suffering the same fate. 

One proposed resolution, a hodgepodge collection of demands directed at Congress, included ending Citizens United, ending voter suppression, implementing single-payer health care for all citizens, and decriminalizing all drugs.

Rep. Ilana Rubel, D-Boise, argued against adopting the resolution as it might hurt some Democratic legislative candidates.

“They are running in razor-thin districts,” Rubel said, pointing out District 18 seat A was once won by seven votes. “If we hang around their neck this statement that the Democratic Party wants to sell your kids meth… it is a losing message in every one of our tight districts,” she said as a handful in the audience started booing.

Party leaders postponed nonessential convention activities, like candidate trainings and panel discussions, partly to ensure there were enough votes in the room to shut down controversial proposals.

Those efforts weren’t enough. The contested resolution passed after attendees removed mention of drug decriminalization and added new language instructing lawmakers to work toward implementing Sanders’ campaign platform in Idaho.

During the confusion over procedural technicalities, attendees circled the room, murmuring “Democracy is messy,” and “Isn’t this fun?” with strained smiles.

The frustration between the two groups simmered under the surface over the course of the convention. Some Sanders supporters used the phrase “Republican-light” to describe those opposed to pursuing more Sanders issues, and old school Democrats defended the work they’d done over the course of decades.

“I am as far from Republican-light as you can get,” Rubel said. “I’ve been marching in pride parades since I was a young teenager.”


The tension echoed the meltdown at the 2014 Idaho Republican State Convention, though the frustration and emotion from the Democrats didn’t reach the same level. (“Republican-light” was the worst pejorative this reporter heard at the Dem convention. Fed-up Republicans used much stronger language in 2014.)

Part of the discord within Idaho’s GOP ranks stems from grassroots Tea Party activists and Ron Paul supporters becoming more involved with the party between 2008 and 2010. Much like today’s Bernie supporters, those Ron Paul fans turned their passion for their candidate into passion for change.

Previously, Republican party leaders struggled to get enough people to run for precinct committeeman races, or all but ignored them. This year, competitive precinct races across the state attracted attention from shadow political action organizations. Even Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter’s political action committee got involved in a handful of races.

And while Republicans nationwide fret over how Donald Trump might affect down-ticket races, Idaho Democrats have the same concern with Bernie supporters.

Jake Ellis, who is challenging GOP Rep. Patrick McDonald in Ada County’s legislative district 15, was diplomatic in his response to the Sanders’ supporters passion. Still, he was concerned about the consequences of the resolution that passed, especially because he wasn’t a delegate and couldn’t vote.

“I have to respond to the platform, whether or not it reflects what I think,” Ellis said.


Convention participants of all ages wearing Bernie shirts and sporting “Feel the Bern” pins filled the Riverside Hotel. Most who spoke to Idaho Reports said they hadn’t been involved with the Idaho Democratic Party until recently, but had voted and participated in protests.

“I’m seeing a lot of people from Occupy,” said Ada County delegate and Sanders supporter Matt Barbee.

Would the Bernie supporters stick around in coming years to run for office and help with campaigns? Perhaps, Barbee said, though he acknowledged some didn’t realize how much work it might be, or were annoyed at the parliamentary procedures getting in the way of their debates.

But far from being discouraged by the messiness and confusion, Barbee said he was eager to get more involved in the party. “It makes me excited,” he said. “Bernie’s changed a lot.”

That doesn’t mean all Idaho Democrats welcome that change.


Full discussions with Denney and pundits

We had a lot to cover in our last show about campaign finance laws, and only 26 minutes worth of show to fill. So of course, we ended up with far more  Here is our full interview with Secretary of State Lawerence Denney.

And here is our full discussion with pundits Kevin Richert, Betsy Russell and Jim Weatherby.

This is our last show of the season. We’ll keep updating the blog throughout the summer (including at the June Idaho GOP state convention), and we’ll return to the air in the fall. In the meantime, keep up with us on Twitter: @davlinnews, @aaronkunz and @IdahoReports.


Doyle Beck-related companies main donors to Heileson

By Melissa Davlin


Doyle Beck not only gave  $20,000 to the Idaho Freedom Action Fund; He gave House candidate Chick Heileson $1,000 through his company, BRP Gem Lake Harbor Inc. 

And $1,000 through his other company, Bingham Development Company LLC, listed under the same address as BRP Gem Lake Harbor, Inc.

And $1,000 through his other company, Lincoln Land Co, LLC., also under the same address.

And another $1,000 through his other company, BECO Construction.

And another $1,000 through his other company, Phenix of Idaho, which has the same address as BECO Construction.

And there’s a $1,000 through another company, JBC Construction, INC. The report lists JB Construction, though the address given on the document lines up with JBC Construction, which Doyle Beck lists as one of the companies he’s founded on his LinkedIn page.

And another $1,000 from his wife, Elizabeth Beck. (The address given for Elizabeth Beck is the same one given for Doyle Beck on the Idaho Freedom Action electioneering communication declaration from May 5.)

Why not just give that $7,000 in one donation? It’s illegal. An individual’s donations to an Idaho legislative candidate can’t exceed$1,000 per election cycle.

Both Beck and Heileson are scheduled to appear in court on May 18, the day after the primary election, for misdemeanor charges of campaign finance violations. Those accusations stem from a May 2014 contribution to the Integrity in Government PAC in which Heileson borrowed about half of a $12,000 contribution from Beck, according to the Post Register. 



Beck gives $20,000 to Idaho Freedom Action after campaign finance charges

Idaho Freedom Action has filed its first campaign finance disclosure for electioneering communications.

The biggest donor: Embattled Bonneville County GOP Chairman Doyle Beck,who gave $20,000.

Last week, Attorney General Lawrence Wasden charged Beck and Chick Heileson with hiding the sources of campaign contributions after Heileson admitted he had borrowed part of a $12,000 donation from Beck.  Beck’s donation is dated May 5, after that charge was filed.

Other donors include Idaho Freedom Foundation president Wayne Hoffman, who gave $100, Coeur d’Alene Racing LP, which gave $3,500, and Diversified Equity Systems LLC, owned by former congressional candidate Bryan Smith, which gave $7,000.

The electioneering communications refer to Reps. Ron Nate, Merrill Beyeler, Luke Malek, Rich Wills, Kelley Packer, and Wendy Horman, and Sen. Abby Lee.

When asked if Idaho Freedom Action had talked about whether or not to accept Beck’s donation after last week’s misdemeanor charge, Hoffman responded via a spokesman “No, we did not have that discussion.”

This week, Daniel Walters of The Inlander profiled the feud between Idaho Freedom Foundation and Rep. Malek, R-Coeur d’Alene. The article also mentions the tensions between the organization and other lawmakers, including Packer and Sen. Shawn Keough. You can read it here. 


A conversation on the latest public defense filings

By Melissa Davlin and Seth Ogilvie

On Friday, US District Attorney Wendy Olson and the Department of Justice submitted a copy of its proposed amicus brief to the Idaho Supreme Court on behalf of the federal government. The ACLU of Idaho and the State of Idaho also filed responses last week. Read them here:

US amicus brief draft

Defendants’ response

Appellants’ brief

Over the weekend, we went through the three documents. Here’s what we found.

MELISSA: Let’s start with the proposed amicus brief.

SETH: The brief is flush with implication. In logical terms: If this, then that. It states “The United States has a strong interest in ensuring that all jurisdictions Federal, state, and local fulfill their constitutional obligations to provide counsel to criminal defendants and juveniles facing incarceration who cannot afford attorney.” If the U.S. has an interest, then this brief implies that the constitutional obligation is not met. It doesn’t outright state it isn’t being met that is for the court to infer, but it does make strong implication that it is not.

MELISSA: Out of the gate, the United States challenges the logic behind Judge Samuel Hoagland’s dismissal of the ACLU’s lawsuit, arguing that the decision hamstrings both indigent defendants and courts for future challenges.

To boil that down: The United States is saying people shouldn’t have to wait until denial of their constitutional rights has resulted in a total loss of freedom before they file a challenge.

Remember, Hoagland didn’t dismiss the lawsuit because he feels Idaho has a robust public defense system. Rather, he agreed with the state that the issue wasn’t properly before the court, essentially telling the ACLU to gather examples of post-conviction issues instead of the pre-conviction complaints in Tucker v. State of Idaho.

The US’s blunt assessment: “That was error.” And there’s precedent for this, too: The Court of Appeals of New York recognized pre-conviction claims in 2010.

Between the language and the multiple examples of the Department of Justice stepping in to reform indigent defense systems in other jurisdictions, it’s clear the federal government isn’t screwing around with the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments.


SETH: The idea of pre-conviction vs. post-conviction was important to the district court. Hoagland noted there had not been any post-conviction process showing harms from the plaintiffs in Tucker v State of Idaho. But the Fourteenth Amendment is far wider-reaching than simply providing a trial lawyer. It says people shall not be denied “life, liberty or property, without due process of law.” The brief points to this broader definition that would include pre-trial detention.

Someone sitting in jail for three months while waiting for trial would have a significant amount of liberty taken from them and would be entitled to a lawyer. Not “merely a lawyer in name only,” or as they continued, defense “that amounted to little more than a meet and plead system,” but an actual advocate. The brief also said post-conviction complaints are “limited to remedying injury caused by a single lawyer’s performance in a single case,” and would not remedy a system that was unconstitutional before even reaching trial.


MELISSA: The issue of pre-trial detention is critical, especially if your court-appointed attorney doesn’t attend your first court appearance where the judge sets bail,as was allegedly the case for plaintiff Tracy Tucker. The ACLU’s case cites Tucker’s three-month detention, when he claims he met with his attorney just three times for a total of 20 minutes. (Two of those meetings, by the way, were at court appearances.) Tucker also alleges he attempted to contact his attorney more than 50 times before his trial.

And while pre-trial detention isn’t uncommon for those who can’t make bail, the brief cites two other cases that demonstrate how defendants who spend time in jail before trial are more likely to receive prison sentences, and are hindered in their ability to prepare their defenses. 


SETH: But Tucker is not the only example cited. The brief looks at several cases from across the country. It sends the message that Idaho is not an island; This plays out nationwide in a larger context.

The issue is currently in the state’s hands, and through legislative action or judicial action, the strong interest of the federal government can be addressed. But if it is not, the federal court system is waiting. To put it in the starkest terms: Hey Idaho, deal with this, or another court might get involved.

The nearest case comes from Washington. Wilbur v. City of Mount Vernon was filed in 2011 as a class action lawsuit and resolved in 2013. The U.S. District Court entirely revised the public defender system in the community, giving exact guideline and deadlines and taking all control out of local hands.

The Idaho Legislature and the Idaho courts have had this issue in front of them for years. It looks like the federal government is getting impatient.

The other complication is the separation of powers. Who can tell whom what to do? The US places responsibility for indigent defense on the state, but Idaho outsources that to the counties. The state legislature sets the policy, but it is the courts who ultimately deal with it.

So who has the authority to act? Hoagland thought the court had a separation of power issue. The United States does not, claiming “Courts are not powerless to compel action by other branches of government in order to remedy a constitutional violation.”

Or in more basic terms, it is actually the court’s job to make sure those other branches of government are acting within the Constitution.


MELISSA: In its filing, the ACLU points to other court cases and the Legislature’s actions on public defense this year chipping away at another argument by the state that the lawsuit targeted the wrong defendants. “(T)he Governor “has direct supervisory authority over those responsible to establish standards for a constitutionally sound public defense system” and the PDC is “specifically saddled with the responsibility of creating rules” to regulate and improve public defense delivery throughout the state,” the filing says. “To the extent there was any serious question regarding this issue, the Governor and Legislature’s recent enactment of House Bill 504 puts it to rest: effective July 1, 2016, the PDC, under I.C. § 19-850, is mandated to promulgate standards for public defense statewide and empowered to enforce them in each county.”

The ACLU’s filing was 74 pages. In contrast, the state submitted a 7 page response, reiterating that the lower court made the right call in dismissing the case. “There is little to be gained by the United States briefing as amicus only an abstract issue that Defendants-Respondents will not dispute,” the brief says.

One final note: Not all of the defendants are listed as being represented by the attorney general’s office. Cally Younger is representing Gov. Otter.  Three members of the public defense commission — Linda Copple Trout, Sara Thomas and William Wellman — are absent from that AG’s group on the latest filing from the state, and the ACLU’s latest brief shows a separate lawyer for Thomas and Wellman.

No word on who  might represent Trout, who replaced Judge Molly Huskey on the PDC. (For what it’s worth, Huskey is no longer listed as a defendant in the ACLU’s latest filing, though she is still listed as being represented by the AG.)

We’ll continue to keep an eye on this.



Rest well, Fred

Fred Riggers passed away suddenly on April 26, according to his obituary in the Idaho Statesman.

Riggers, with his white cane and wide grin, was a regular at Idaho legislative meetings. He wasn’t a lobbyist, activist, or statehouse employee — just a citizen who loved public policy and a good debate.

But it wasn’t just about the meetings. Riggers loved people, too. When I was a brand new legislative reporter in 2012, he was one of the first to introduce himself to me. He gave me some of the warmest congratulations when Idaho Public Television hired me in 2013, and immediately invited me to join Rotary Club. I didn’t take him up on it — at the time, I was overwhelmed with a new baby, new job and new house — and today, I’m regretting the lost opportunity to get to know him better.

Fred never hesitated to tell me what he thought of my reporting and stories. Lucky for me, his reviews were almost always positive. 

In 2013, Bill Spence of the Lewiston Tribune wrote a lovely profile of Riggers. You can read it here.