By Soncirey Mitchell and Zach Hagadone
Following the controversial citizen’s arrest and trespassing of county residents Dave Bowman and Rick Cramer on Jan. 26 by Luke Omodt, chair of the Bonner County board of commissioners, the BOCC repeated the process to formally trespass Bowman at the Tuesday, Feb. 6 regular business meeting.
The decision accompanied Omodt’s proposal to host a series of meetings and workshops to update Chapter 2 of Bonner County Revised Code to, among other things, institute formal channels to trespass residents in the future.
Omodt opened the meeting with a motion to amend the agenda, making the first item a vote to immediately trespass Bowman, who was present during the meeting. Commissioner Asia Williams called the motion a “ridiculous misuse of power” and a “ridiculous misuse of county funds,” as she believes it opens the county to litigation.
“Bonner County does not have a trespass rule, and the board making a decision to trespass someone — it demands that you provide some type of very clear evidence, because what you’re doing is passing the risk of trespassing someone, unlawfully, onto Bonner County residents,” said Williams, who has a professional background in risk management.
Williams did not respond to a request for comment by press time.
Omodt maintained that trespass is a criminal offense in Idaho and, by extension, the board had the right to trespass members of the public who threatened the safety of meeting attendees.
The incident stems from several emails sent by Bowman to Bonner County officials in January, in which he contended that attempts to remove him and Cramer from previous meetings were “unlawful” and motivated by personal displeasure with their speech, rather than actual threats.
Meanwhile, in a Jan. 15 email, Bowman used what Omodt considered to be threatening language, including that the former felt it to be “within my rights” to take what he called “offensive action to defend myself” if told by Sergeant at Arms Cameron La Combe to leave the BOCC meeting room at the instruction of Omodt.
“Instead I retreated; if it happens again I will not retreat,” Bowman wrote in the Jan. 15 email, referring to a separate incident on Jan. 9 when Omodt directed La Combe to remove Bowman from a meeting for behavior he considered disruptive.
Furthermore, Bowman wrote that if he felt “threatened” by La Combe in the context of the latter’s duty to remove individuals at the direction of the chair, he would “defend myself,” and if “an altercation ensues, imagine the ramifications. Civil actions against the county, Omodt and Cameron, criminal charges against Cameron and Omodt, medical bills, potential injuries of bystanders, etc., etc. It could get very ugly. No one needs or wants that, however if it happens it will be on the county and the individual actors, especially now that this has been brought to your attention on the record.”
In a subsequent email on Jan. 24, following Omodt’s order to remove Cramer from a meeting, Bowman wrote that Cramer had been approached by La Combe “in a way that could certainly be construed as threatening by any reasonable person,” and pointed out that Cramer “was open carrying [a firearm], which as anyone well-versed in weapons and self-defense knows, presents a very real risk in the event of a physical altercation, of escalating to a gunfight. An armed person cannot risk being on the losing end of a fight and having his weapon taken from him, so the weapon itself may very well end up being used to prevent it being taken. … I’ve already warned of the possible ramifications so I won’t repeat them but I will just remind you.”
Following that email exchange, Omodt conducted a citizen’s arrest on Bowman and Cramer at the Jan. 26 quarterly budget meeting of the BOCC, to which the Sandpoint Police Department responded. Omodt hosted a press conference Jan. 30 at the Bonner County Administration Building, during which he described the trespassing incidents as indicative of an ongoing pattern of “usurpation of civil society,” which “is not the hallmark of good government, but the actions of a mob intended to disrupt our democratic process.”
In an email to the Reader on Feb. 2, Cramer wrote, “My comments were not disruptive. Chairman Omodt just doesn’t like what I have to say. Mr. Omodt should be humble enough to listen to the public’s viewpoints before making his decisions.
“On Jan. 26, I had not spoken a single word, and was respectfully seated when he trespassed me. I was shocked. I was peaceful both before and after he asked me to leave,” he added. “When I watched his press conference on Jan. 30, I was appalled when Mr. Omodt implied that I made threats and posed a safety risk to staff. I never made a threat of any kind to him or to staff. Mr. Bowman wrote an email to the commissioners, which Mr. Omodt misinterpreted as violent. I was never consulted by Mr. Bowman before he sent that email. Mr. Omodt unfairly lumps me in with Mr. Bowman.
“It is ironic that Mr. Omodt excludes non-violent members of the public from commissioner meetings, when Commissioner Bradshaw has been adjudicated in a court of law of making threats of violence and the court issued a civil protection order for one year against him,” Cramer continued, referring to a long-running controversy surrounding alleged threats of violence made by Bradshaw against Williams, which has resulted in a protection order that requires Bradshaw to remain unarmed on county property — and submit to searches to verify that he is not armed — and avoid Williams while not engaged in official BOCC business.
A Bonner County sheriff’s deputy has been present at BOCC meetings to provide security for Williams since the year-long order went into effect in August 2023. Presiding Judge Justin Julian clarified on Jan. 24 that the order does not require the presence of a deputy at meetings, though Sheriff Daryl Wheeler told the Reader in a Jan. 30 email that the deputy will continue to attend for the foreseeable future.
In his Feb. 2 email to the Reader, Cramer pointed out that Bradshaw has continued to attend BOCC meetings in person, when the option to participate via Zoom has been available. Under the terms of the one-year trespassing order against Bowman and Cramer, both men are barred from in-person attendance at BOCC meetings, but are entitled to take part using Zoom or other remote means.
“Mr. Omodt doesn’t require Mr. Bradshaw to appear via Zoom. He ignores Mr. Bradshaw’s violent threats because Mr. Bradshaw agrees with him,” Cramer wrote. “The chair needs to hear public comment, even when he disagrees with their views. Commissioner Williams represents us too, and the chair needs to let her agenda items be discussed and voted on — even if he doesn’t agree with them.”
In a lengthy email chain that Omodt shared on Feb. 2 with top county officials and members of the press — including the Reader, Bonner County Daily Bee and Spokesman-Review — Williams came to Cramer’s defense, writing in part to Omodt, Bradshaw, Wheeler, Bonner County Prosecutor Louis Marshall and Deputy Prosecutor Bill Wilson on the afternoon of Jan. 30, “Given that there is no correspondence from Cramer with reported threats, I am concerned that the trespass and press release place the county at increased risk. I am asking that the trespassing of one year against Mr. Cramer be removed as there is no correspondence of threats. The press release addresses two arrests…two trespasses…with only one person sending an email that requires review and investigation. Legal was not included on this release. We are exposed for litigation from both persons and even greater with Cramer as Bradshaw’s response is to look at Bowman’s emails.”
Marshall followed with an email that afternoon to BOCC members, Wilson and Wheeler, asking, “What crime was committed in Bowman’s email? Has the matter been submitted to the Sandpoint PD for investigation? They are very capable of handling a simple threat investigation. If there was a crime committed we will need to have a law enforcement investigation before pursuing charges. When we file criminal charges we have to have something called a probable cause affidavit done by the arresting officer. Is there one here? Is there even one done in the trespass case because there wasn’t one done when I looked yesterday morning before I left.”
Exactly how Omodt’s citizen’s arrest of Bowman and Cramer and subsequent response from Sandpoint police played out remains unclear. A records request filed with the city of Sandpoint by the Reader to obtain correspondence “between members of the Bonner County Board of Commissioners, Sandpoint Police Chief Corey Coon and/or Sandpoint Mayor Jeremy Grimm” dated Jan. 31 was returned with near-total redaction, citing Idaho Code 74-105(1), which covers “Transparent and Ethical Government” under the Idaho Public Records Act, stipulating, “investigatory records of a law enforcement agency” are exempt from disclosure.
However, at the same time, the Reader received a copy of an email sent the morning of Jan. 31 by Bowman to Marshall and Coon seeking clarity on the trespass and his “status with respect to being placed under citizen’s arrest by Luke Omodt and taken into custody by SPD, then released, on January 26, 2024,” suggesting that he had indeed been arrested by Sandpoint police but released.
In a statement to the Reader dated Jan. 31, Bowman wrote that he had been “advised not to make statements at this time,” including in response to a question about what happened following Omodt’s citizen’s arrest. Previously, Wheeler did not respond to a direct question from the Reader on Jan. 30 related to whether Bowman and Cramer had been arrested and booked, arrested and released, or even charged with any crime.
However, that Bowman and Cramer had been released following their arrest appeared to be confirmed by an email sent by Marshall on the morning of Jan. 31 to BOCC members, Wilson and Wheeler, in which the prosecutor wrote:
“I made the decision to release the two individuals. Prosecutors have the constitutional and statutory right to charge crimes committed within their jurisdiction. We are able to release inmates prior to the individuals being seen by the court. At that time when the person has been ordered before the court, the court then has sole jurisdiction over the person. Additionally, persons arrested on a warrant are solely within the jurisdiction of the court. In this matter the persons were arrested and removed. The person doing the citizen’s arrest and arresting officer do not have the authority to dictate what my office does. In this case we were not consulted and no probable cause affidavit was presented. The persons did not have a warrant. Additionally, the police officers did NOT arrest the people based on probable cause, they merely facilitated a citizen’s arrest. This was a warrantless arrest without a probable cause affidavit and review of that affidavit by a prosecutor. This type situation has the highest potential for liability. As such, the liability if said arrest turns out to be flawed falls upon the person making the arrest and potentially the county if Commissioner Omodt was acting in his official capacity.”
In a statement issued Jan. 26, Sandpoint Mayor Jeremy Grimm wrote that Sandpoint police had acted within Idaho Code, which empowers them to arrest “anyone suspected of violating the law, day or night, within our municipal corporate territory,” as well being “obliged and empowered to make arrests, including the facilitation of Private Arrest.”
“The city of Sandpoint has the greatest respect for the Idaho Constitution, the judicial process and the rights of our citizens and elected officials. As this is an active investigation, further commentary will be limited to protect the rights of the individuals involved,” Grimm wrote.
However, in his Jan. 31 email, Marshall questioned whether any crime had been committed by Bowman in his January emails, writing, “The vast majority of threats don’t constitute crimes.” He also questioned in his correspondence with Omodt why the chair had indicated he would contact the Idaho State Police and governor’s office relative to the trespassing incidents, though added, “I presume my questions will go unanswered and at this point I am simply left to speculate. My questions are not loaded — I have no political agenda. I am simply trying to do my job. I am very concerned rash decisions made without legal counsel and sometimes against legal counsel will lead to litigation which we can’t afford.”
In Bowman’s email to Marshall and Coon on Jan. 31, he wrote that he had researched the process for lawfully trespassing an individual from a public space, but had “yet to find a clear explanation.”
“I need to know whether or not I am currently trespassed from the county building, only from commissioner meetings or not trespassed at all,” he wrote, adding later that while he was not asking for Marshall or Coon to take a legal position, “I insist on getting a clear answer to whether or not I am currently trespassed, and a clear answer as to what the process is to trespass an individual from the county building.”
Bowman’s Jan. 31 email followed up on another email dated Jan. 29 that sought the same clarification, which he claimed went unreturned. Marshall responded on Jan. 31 that he could not provide Bowman with legal advice, but, “There is no question a majority of the BOCC considers you to be trespassed and there is no reason to not believe they would cause your arrest if you physically come to the administration building.”
In his email to county officials and the press on Feb. 2, Omodt criticized a joint statement issued by Marshall and Wheeler on Jan. 30 — following Omodt’s press conference — that stated the chair had “once again disparaged” their offices, doubted whether any disruptive behavior had taken place to result in the trespassing and claimed that “blaming the sheriff and prosecutor for [the BOCC’s] own shortcomings seems political in nature.”
“I cannot begin to express my frustration and disappointment in the joint statement from Prosecutor Louis Marshall and Sheriff Daryl Wheeler where the safety of the public, employees, and elected officials attending BOCC meetings is equated as ‘blaming the sheriff and prosecutor for their own shortcomings as political in nature.’ Then, in what appears to be a direct contradiction to Idaho Code 20-612, release individuals who were lawfully arrested for trespass without being booked into the county jail before a police report is submitted.”
Among the other correspondence contained in that email chain, Omodt, on the evening of Jan. 30 cited Idaho Code 20-612 and 31-705, which cover the obligation of county sheriffs to handle the “reception and board of prisoners” and the powers of the chair of boards of county commissioners to “preside at all meetings of the board.”
In addition, he included a bulleted list stating that the Bonner County jail had no booking record for Bowman and Cramer, though both were “lawfully arrested by the Sandpoint Police Department.” Omodt also pointed out that Wheeler donated to Bowman’s 2022 campaign for the District 3 BOCC seat — currently held by Omodt, who is running for a second term in the 2024 election — and “vigorously endorsed him at a BCRCC [Bonner County Republican Central Committee] meeting,” as well as Bowman’s contribution to Williams’ BOCC campaign.
According to the Idaho Secretary of State’s Office campaign finance reporting database, Bowman gave $100 to Williams during her 2022 election campaign, while Wheeler gave Bowman $840 for the 2022 Dist. 3 commissioner contest, in which he faced off with Omodt during the primary.
Meanwhile, at the Feb. 6 BOCC meeting, Williams defended Bowman.
“In the current meeting, per the statute, Dave Bowman has done nothing but sit down,” said Williams. “So you don’t have a behavior to point to to justify what you’re doing. Sitting peacefully is not a reason to trespass, and if you do it in this meeting, this video — with all of this stuff coming out of my mouth — is not going to help us. So I’m asking you not to do it. Address it with legal [counsel] appropriately, because we will be sued.”
According to Williams, Omodt is liable for his decision to trespass and perform a citizen’s arrest on Bowman and Cramer; however, she added, trespassing Bowman as a board during the Feb. 6 meeting would put the county at risk for litigation.
When questioned by Williams, Omodt did not cite the specific law used to trespass Bowman, nor did he indicate whether Deputy Prosecutor Wilson — present via Zoom — had given a legal opinion on the motion to trespass. Despite repeated requests from Williams, Wilson did not weigh in during the meeting.
The vote to approve the amended order of the agenda, and subsequently the vote to formally trespass Bowman, passed despite protests from Williams. She did not vote on either motion. Omodt then recessed the meeting to consult with members of the Sandpoint police who had been on-hand awaiting the board’s decision.
The Tuesday, Feb. 6 meeting was also the first instance of enforcement of the BOCC’s 12th standing rule, adopted on Jan. 23, which stipulates that “all members of the public wanting to give public comment in the regular business meeting must sign up prior to the meeting being called to order. Members of the public wishing to give public comment via Zoom must submit a completed form prior to the call to order.”
The online form requests that commenters state whether they reside in the county, their name, email address and the topic on which they wish to comment. According to Williams, Marshall “indicated that we can’t require people to give you [Omodt] the topic that they want to discuss and their email address on a form.”
This newly enforced rule received ample attention during the public comment section, as attendees believed that it gave Omodt the power to control public speech.
Omodt explained that the form complies with the Idaho Legislature’s rules for giving remote testimony.
Resident Brandon Cramer argued that the form is “a violation of antitrust laws because it requires us to have a Google account to sign up.” The U.S. Department of Justice defines such laws as any that “prohibit anti-competitive conduct and mergers that deprive American consumers, taxpayers and workers of the benefits of competition.”
According to a 2019 state profile on privacy, Denver, Colo.-based law firm Holland and Hart — one of the largest legal practices in the Rocky Mountain region, with an office in Boise — there are “no general Idaho law provisions governing privacy and security requirements regarding data storage.”
Omodt agendized the final five action items, though ultimately condensed them into one motion to “update Bonner County Revised Code Chapter 2,” which was broad enough to cover all five items. The motion encompassed BCRC 1-201 through 1-203, but did not propose any specific changes.
Williams asked that those action items be postponed as, according to her, Omodt’s memorandum submitted alongside the items did not adequately convey the intent of his motion.
“It’s to move to update, but I have no language,” said Omodt. “I’m not just adopting the new code. What this will do is it will initiate a process where we will work with legal, we will have workshops, but all it is to see whether or not the board is interested versus just myself being interested [in updating the code].”
The argument that followed made it difficult to hear the clerk calling for individual votes, though the motion to update BCRC Chapter 2 finally passed without a vote from Williams.
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