By Ben Olson
A charge of battery involving Sandpoint residents who were involved in an incident after a Bonner County Board of Commissioners Business meeting in January was dismissed March 26, according to the Bonner County Prosecutor’s Office.
The battery charge stemmed from an incident that occurred during the regularly scheduled Bonner County Board of County Commissioners business meeting on Jan. 28 involving Rebecca and Don Holland and Steve Wasylko.
The incident occurred after the public comment period had ended on Jan. 28 where the Hollands and Wasylko had each made public comments regarding the ongoing weapons ban lawsuit between Bonner County and the City of Sandpoint.
The Hollands and Wasylko exited the hearing room, where minutes later, raised voices could be heard down the hallway.
Wasylko told the Reader on Jan. 28 that Don Holland asked him to “talk in the hallway,” when Wasylko claimed Holland began acting “super belligerent” and “grabbed [him] by the arm,” when Wasylko tried to leave.
“He asked me if I knew someone who was a white supremacist that lived in Bonner County,” Wasylko said. “That’s when I said, ‘When you compare me to a white supremacist this conversation is over.’”
Holland contended that he was not attempting to compare Wasylko to a white supremacist, but rather was sharing an experience he had with a white supremacist in which he met with the man several times to “create a dialogue” between people on opposite ends of the political spectrum. Holland said he was attempting to open the same sort of dialogue with Wasylko about the gun issue when Wasylko tried to walk away from the conversation.
“[Wasylko] mischaracterized what I said,” Holland told the Reader, adding, “this needn’t be a binary issue.”
A video of the incident, captured by Rebecca Holland, shows Don Holland and Wasylko speaking in the hallway during the BOCC business meeting. The video shows the moment when Holland briefly contacted Wasylko’s right arm with his left hand when the latter turned to leave the conversation. Wasylko instantly reacted to the touch, telling Holland in a raised voice, “Do not touch me, sir.”
A county employee escorted the Hollands from the Bonner County Administration Building and notified Sandpoint Police of the incident. A day later, Holland notified the Reader that he had picked up his citation for misdemeanor battery. The BOCC announced shortly after the incident that they would suspend all public comment at BOCC Business meetings until further notice – a policy that was rescinded a week later.
Bonner County Prosecutor Louis Marshall confirmed the charges were dismissed after Holland sent a letter of apology to Wasylko.
“That was an idea that I came up with and I ran it by Steve and he was OK with that,” Marshall told the Reader. “I then presented that to Mr. Holland’s attorney.”
“I apologize for the mistake of touching you as you started to walk away from our conversation on January 28,” Don wrote in the letter to Wasylko. “I did not intend to offend you. I certainly was not comparing you to an Aryan.”
Wasylko said he was satisfied with the dismissal, noting that he believed Don was “sucked into” the interaction by his wife Rebecca.
“Honestly, if it was Rebecca who had touched me, I would’ve kept the charge pressed,” Wasylko told the Reader. “I think Don got sucked into this whole thing and it wasn’t fair that he got a battery charge against him when I think Rebecca was the instigator.”
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