Good news and bad news for Craig Rowland, the sheriff of Bingham County in eastern Idaho! As you may recall, earlier this month, Rowland was charged with "aggravated battery, aggravated assault, and exhibition of a deadly weapon" after he pulled an LDS youth group leader out of a car by her hair on November 9 and pointed a gun in her face, threatening to kill her.
But he had a good reason! The youth group girls, ranging in age from 12 to 16, had been taping "thankful turkey" notes to people's front doors, ringing the bell, and running away, and Rowland no doubt worried they might have been some of those "drunk Indians" who he said always caused trouble in his neighborhood.
Beyond offending members of the local Shoshone-Bannock tribe, who have called for his resignation, Rowland's explanation that he was on edge because of the "not good people" from the reservation doesn't hold much water, since his Ring doorbell took video of him looking at the "thankful turkey" the girls had left on his own door, then muttering “Thank you,” and “That’s frickin bulls***” before taking his gun and running into the road, wearing a T-shirt and long john bottoms, to assail the youth group leader.
The "thankful turkey" notes sure looked threatening, though:
Feathers up! Don't shoot! Photocopy of note via Idaho Attorney General's Office.
Last week, at Rowland's first court appearance, Fremont County Magistrate Judge Faren Eddins said that Rowland would have to surrender his firearms to the Idaho State Police while the case moves forward — both his personal guns and any firearms he uses as sheriff.
Idaho state Deputy Attorney General Jeff Nye had also requested that Rowland be placed on leave for the duration of the case, explaining that, "The state finds it hard to believe that the public would be able to see integrity in this court process if it allows the defendant to remain the chief law enforcement officer of the county while facing these allegations," but Judge Eddins denied the request, because hey, innocent until proven guilty.
This is a good thing to keep in mind, should you ever want to keep working in Idaho law enforcement after being charged with two felonies and a misdemeanor for traumatizing a Mormon youth group by waving a gun around and shouting obscenities and death threats.
While the initial appearance was mostly for the sake of advising Rowland of his rights, Nye nonetheless outlined the prosecution's case, explaining that the girls were being sweet, goddammit, and the sheriff is a lunatic.
Any person who responds to that kind of harmless conduct, that is well-intentioned on its base, by equipping himself with a gun and initiating an extremely dangerous and potentially fatal confrontation is a risk to public safety.
Rowland's attorney, Justin Olesen, replied that the state's case isn't as strong as prosecutors want to believe.
“(We) strongly disagree with the state’s version of the facts,” he said.
Olesen claimed the investigation by the state attorney general was more of an attack on Rowland.
“This is not an investigation. This is political,” he said. “… All the attorney general is trying to do is try to remove Mr. Rowland from his position.”
Oleson also requested that Rowland's firearms be kept at the Bingham County Sheriff’s Office, or perhaps the Blackfoot Police Department, just in case Rowland needed them for sheriffing, but Eddins refused.
Nye also requested that Eddins issue no-contact orders to keep Rowland from coming near three of the girls who had witnessed the incident, noting that one parent had told him that if they saw the sheriff in public, "I would grab her, and we would leave immediately, no matter the circumstances.” Eddins issued a no-contact order for that girl, and said that if any of the others requested a no-contact order, he'd issue one.
At Rowland's next court appearance, scheduled for January 26, Eddins will determine whether Sheriff Triggerhappy will have a jury trial.
If convicted, Rowland could face up to 15 years in prison for the felony aggravated battery charge, up to five years for aggravated assault, and up to six months for the misdemeanor deadly weapon charge. The state is also seeking a "firearm enhancement" for each of the felony charges, which could add another 15 years for each.
Until this whole mess is over, we hope Rowland won't be too inconvenienced by the loss of his precious firearms. You never know when the Episcopalian boys' choir might run amok on a snowy winter's evening.
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