From the November 2000 Idaho Observer:


Boundary County drops forfeiture case, returns $1,108 to Lance

Prosecutors' decision to return money tacit admission deputy lied under oath?

by Don Harkins

BONNERS FERRY -- Boundary County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Todd Reed, in a letter dated October 17, 2000, stated that his office was willing to dismiss CV-98-21675 (DENISE WOODBURY v. ONE THOUSAND ONE HUNDRED EIGHT DOLLARS [$1,108, U.S. CURRENCY]) if Harley Lance would sign and return a “Stipulation for Dismissal within 10 days.

Lance, 42, is currently serving 2-6 years at the Idaho State Correctional Institute in Orofino after being found guilty of possession of controlled substances by District Judge James Michaud in June, 1999. Boundary County Prosecutor Denise Woodbury, in her civil capacity, began orchestrating attempts to seize the money Lance had with him at the time of his arrest. Woodbury filed the civil action intending to get Lance's money June 2, 1999 -- 16 days before he was criminally convicted for possession of methamphetamine and marijuana.

Boundary County Deputy Mark Strangio told the court that, “It is my belief that it [the money] was used -- this money as a result -- the result of criminal profiteering.”

According to state law, monies deemed to be made as a result of profiteering may be recovered by the state. Lance has maintained that the money was from the sale of a car. Witnesses and documents support his claims.

The return of Lance's money is an indication that his entire story, as reported in The Idaho Observer (August, 1999) is true and that the Oregon man was wrongfully arrested, maliciously prosecuted with false testimony and falsified documents and then sent to prison.

Lance was passing through Bonners Ferry on the way to Libby, Mont., when he and a female companion were stopped and searched at the Kootenai Resort, then erroneously connected to the one-night rental of a room at the Kootenai Valley Inn where three ounces of marijuana and a quantity of methamhetamine were found.

Lance claims that he did not rent the room and had no intention of spending the night in Bonners Ferry. Evidence and witnesses support his claims.

Amid evolving testimony from Deputy Strangio and Deputy Martie Ryan, Judge Michaud declared a mistrial and dismissed charges of possession with intent to sell. Then, without being refiled by the prosecutor's office, Judge Michaud reinstated the charges, but dropped them to mere possession and sent Lance to prison.

Soon after he was incarcerated, Woodbury began orchestrating attempts to “steal” Lance's money based upon her civil action. A hearing of Woodbury v. $1,108 was held October 7, 1999 (The Idaho Observer, October, 1999). Magistrate Quentin Hardin continued the matter because not only was the money not subpoenaed to defend itself in court, but Reed did not properly submit an order that would have allowed Lance to be transferred from where he was currently imprisoned to defend his money. “Without a return of service I do not have the jurisdiction to proceed.” Judge Hardin explained to a visibly disappointed Reed.

Reed seemed irritated that the presence of The Idaho Observer in the courtroom may have somehow delayed his office being allowed to steal a non-present and non-represented $1,108.

Hardin ordered that Reed's office make sure Lance was present at the next hearing.

Another hearing was held December 1, 1999. This time Judge Hardin allowed Woodbury to “steal” the money though, again, neither the money nor Lance was present. The only difference was that The Idaho Observer was not present. Though Don Harkins, Ingri Cassel and Judy Reeves attempted to witness the proceeding, it was learned later that the hearing was moved to a little room down the hall from the courtroom within which it was scheduled to be held. The change was not posted.

The hearing, in which Judge Hardin allowed Woodbury to “steal” Lance's non-present and non-represented money without witnesses, could be best described as a “star chamber” proceeding. The closing passages from the transcript are quite revealing of the conspiratorial nature of Woodbury's intent in this matter:

WOODBURY: “Your Honor, for the record uh could we state for the record. Are we still on the record on this matter? That the uh -- that this hearing is posted outside the door of this courtroom.

COURT: That is correct.

WOODBURY: Thank you.

According to three witnesses who appeared at the courthouse specifically to witness the proceeding, the change was not posted at the new location.

Lance refused to let the issue die and finally compelled Boundary County to reconsider its obvious attempt to “steal” his legitimately earned money.

In a letter dated September 19, 2000, Reed made an offer to return 1/2 of the money, or $554. “In reviewing the file I have had an opportunity to determine the nature of this case, as well as our civil forfeiture case. Without going into detail, our office load currently is significantly large to a point where we are having difficulty keeping up with all of the requirements. Because of that, you will benefit by the fact that we will offer to return one half of the total amount claimed by our civil forfeiture action. Thus, you will be entitled to $554.00 and the state will retain $554.00,” Reed wrote.

Reed's office is very busy, he said. It already has a judgment in its favor regarding the $1,108, but he has time to review both the “nature” of the criminal case and the “civil forfeiture” case? It would appear that Reed has made a tacit admission that the criminal case against Lance was not built upon a foundation of real evidence sufficient to gain a conviction. Recognizing the tenuousness of his office's position, Reed also stated in the letter that, “any statements made in this letter will be inadmissible in a court of law because it is written solely for the purpose of a potential settlement.”

Lance saw through the Reed letter and wrote back, “Your offer of 1/2 of the $1,108 is unacceptable. We will pursue the matter into the Supreme Court if necessary.”

Apparently caving in to overwhelming evidence that Lance has been wrongly incarcerated and, therefore, the civil forfeiture was ill-conceived, Reed gave Lance his money back.

The Idaho Observer has unsuccessfully attempted to reach Woodbury for comment.