From the August 1999 Idaho Observer:

Oregon man to serve 2-6 after mistrial was declared?

Judge Michaud declares mistrial for felonies, reinstates them without refiling charges, then sends Harley Lance to prison?

There is something going on in the courtroom of Judge James Michaud that would appear to have very little to do with justice. In three out of three cases, Tyler, Prewitt and now Lance, the judge is allowing certain people to provably perjure themselves; he is not allowing the defense to present exculpatory evidence; he is not allowing the defense to call key witnesses; he is warning defendants what he will do to them if they insist upon going to trial; he is making a total mockery of due process and he is sending provably innocent people to prison. Michaud is up for reelection in three years.

by Don Harkins

BONNERS FERRY -- District Judge James Michaud sentenced Harley Lance of Marquam, Oregon, to serve 2-6 years in prison for possession of marijuana in excess of three ounces, possession of methamphetamine -- felonies. Lance was also given 30 days each for possession of marijuana and possession of smoking paraphernalia and ordered to pay a variety of “reimbursments."

Lance's June 18, 1999 conviction in the court of Judge Michaud is based upon the evolving testimony of two Boundary County Sheriff's Department (BCSD) deputies whose stories are in conflict with hard evidence and an unsigned, undated statement made, according to its author, under duress.

“My son is no angel, but there is no way that he is guilty of the crimes Judge Michaud just sent him to prison for,” said Lance's father Robert Lance.

Lance was charged with possession of methamphetamine with intent to deliver and possession of marijuana with intent to deliver resulting his April 24, 1998 arrest when police, with the use of questionable evidence, determined that Lance was responsible for large amounts of meth and marijuana found in a room at the Kootenai Valley Inn motel.

Unable to convince the jury at his January 6, 1999 trial that Lance had intended to deliver anything, Judge Michaud declared a mistrial. Unable to convict Lance of anything greater than a misdemeanor after he had, at that point, spent at least 60 days in jail, Boundary County Prosecutor Denise Woodbury filed charges of perjury against Lance. Woodbury filed perjury charges because she determined that Lance had lied to the court about his renting a room at the Kootenai Valley Inn.

Lance insists that he never rented a room there but, rather than face charges of perjury on top of his other troubles, he allowed the court to drop the perjury to contempt of court. Judge Michaud gave Lance 75 days for the contempt and gave him credit for time served.

Rather than force Deputy Boundary County Prosecutor Todd Reed to refile charges after he had declared a mistrial, Judge Michaud allowed the prosecution to proceed on the lesser charges of possession, for which Lance was found guilty.

“How can you be convicted after a judge has declared a mistrial?” asked Lance's father Robert who, with Lance's mother, has attended every court proceeding since their son's 1998 arrest.

The Lance's have also spent thousands of dollars attempting to find justice for their son and have put their Portland, OR, area farm up as collateral on a bond.

Robert Lance believes that his son should have been set free after Judge Michaud declared a mistrial. Even if Boundary County had filed new charges, wouldn't it have violated the constitutional clause that prohibits a man being tried more than once for the same crime?

Convicted for crimes thrown out by judge in mistrial?

It is a matter of record that the jury was hung on charges that Lance was in possission of drugs with intent to deliver and that Judge Michaud declared a mistrial on those counts January 6, 1999.

We must assume that the judge and the Boundary County Prosecutor's Office recognized that their inability to convict Lance of a felony put the county in a position to be sued for multiple millions of dollars in a federal civil action that would be filed by a man who had been forced to spend nearly 200 days in jail before he had been sentenced and after the mistrial had been declared.

So, to protect the taxpayers, who are always ultimately held fiscally accountable for the costly and inept actions of bad government, Judge Michaud apparently allowed the prosecution to proceed against Lance with lesser charges without refiling.

According to Robert Lance, the Boundary County Prosecutor's Office had stated that it was not planning to refile drug charges against Lance and had Judge Michaud simply followed through with due process after he declared mistrial, his son would be free now instead of facing six years in prison.

Judge Michaud must recognize the tenuousness of his behavior because it took him until July 27 to sign Lance's sentencing and commitment order.

Lance's Attorney Roger Williams believes that Judge Michaud's failure to enforce his own declaration of a mistrial after the jury hung on the intent to deliver was an error in judgment on the judge's part and has left Lance's case wide open for appeal. Williams also agreed that it was likely Judge Michaud delayed signing the commitment order until he had researched his liability upon appeal.

The night of the arrest

Lance had began the day in Molalla, OR, and was proceeding to Libby, MT, to sell the 1975 Monza that he was driving. According to Lance, he stopped to pick up Sherie Love in Moyie Springs. Love was going to proceed with Lance to Libby.

Lance also picked up some boxes from a friend of his ex-wife that he was going to deliver to her at her home in Libby. “I never even opened the boxes to see what was inside,” said Lance.

Lance and Love planned to leave immediately for Libby but stopped in to talk to Love's mother who was at the Kootenai River Inn Casino at the north end of Bonners Ferry on Highway 95.

Boundary County sheriff's deputies Martie Ryan and Mark Strangio contend that they noticed, as they were driving past the Kootenai River Inn Casino on Hwy. 95 the night of April 24, 1998, that Lance's 1975 Monza, which was parked in the hotel parking lot nearly 200 yards off the elevated highway, had a temporary license taped to where a permanent plate should have been. Deputies Ryan and Strangio considered this probable cause to investigate. “How they were able to single out the Monza and its license plate from the highway is a little curious to me,” commented Robert Lance.

Lance, 37, explained that he put the temporary paper plate where he did because the Monza's windows were angled in such a way that they would not be plainly visible otherwise.

The deputies searched the vehicle and found what they described as drug smoking paraphernalia.

The deputies then searched Lance and Lance's Bonners Ferry resident companion Sherie Love. Although nothing was found on Lance, deputies claim to have found two small white “rocks” that were determined to be methamphetamine in a “fanny pack” that Love was wearing.

Further search of the vehicle allegedly turned up a Kootenai Valley Inn motel room receipt. Deputy testimony conflicts where the receipt was found in the vehicle. No handwriting analysis was performed on the receipt though Robert Lance, 63, of Markham, Oregon, and others who have seen the receipt maintain that the writing on it is plainly not representative of Lance's handwriting.

On the authority of the alleged receipt, deputies then broke the door of the motel room down and “found” the vehicle title of the Monza in the room as “proof” that Lance had indeed rented the room which, as it turned out, contained the three ounces of marijuana and the ounce of methamphetamine.

Lance maintains that he had never rented a room at the Kootenai Valley Inn and that the receipt must have been planted there.

“There was no reason for the title of that vehicle to be in that hotel room,” said Robert Lance. “I put the thing in the glove box myself earlier that morning,” he explained.

Deputy testimony as to the location of the vehicle title, like the disputed location of the motel room receipt, also changes over time.

The first sentence of Linda Elstrom's incident report dated 4/28/98 states that, “Verbal permission to officer Ryan to retrieve the registration/title of the vehicle from the interior of the vehicle. I assisted in looking for the documentation which was found in the glove box of the vehicle. While looking for the title Officer Ryan noticed a paraphernalia pipe in plain view on the console...”

Probable cause to break the motel room door down was achieved with the receipt that was allegedly found in the car. Proof that Lance had, indeed, rented the room where large quantities of drugs were “discovered” were based upon allegedly finding the vehicle title in the room even though Elstrom's incident report says that the officers found it in the glove box of the car.

To further complicate the matter, the motel clerk described the man who rented the room specified on the receipt as having long hair and a scraggly beard. Robert Lance, who has done everything in his power over the last year to achieve the exoneration of his son based upon the evidence, has produced four affidavits from people in Oregon and Bonners Ferry who state that at the time Lance had medium-length hair and was clean shaven.

Love was arrested for possession of methamphetamine. The charge was eventually thrown out of court. Love has reportedly secured the pro bono services of a Moscow attorney recently to represent her in a civil action against the county for illegal search and seizure.

Lance was arrested for driving without a license, possession of marijuana in excess of three ounces, a felony, and possession of one ounce of methamphetamine with intent to sell, also a felony.

Guilty of passing through?

Lance had purchased the Monza in Oregon, reconditioned it and was en route to Libby, Montana where he was going to sell the vehicle. He stopped off in Bonners Ferry to see his friend Love.

Lance and Love were arrested and sent to Boundary County Jail where they awaited arraignment. According to Love, she was released after being badgered into making a handwritten, unsigned and undated statement that admitted she and Lance had “smoked a little rock tonight.”

In her statement there was no mention of the larger quantities of drugs found in the motel room that the evidence would indicate was not rented by Lance. According to Robert Lance, the only evidence Boundary County Deputy Prosecutor Todd Reed was able to produce in justification of a guilty verdict was Love's unsigned, undated statement that she maintains was produced under duress.

Love has not been available to the court to testify in support of her statement. In most cases her unsigned statement alone would be inadmissible as evidence in court because the defense is not provided the opportunity to cross examine the witness. Generally, the only excuse that would prevent an affiant from testifying in court would be their inability to testify because they are no longer among the living.

After her charges were dismissed, Love has left the area with no forwarding address. By fall, 1998, a bench warrant had apparently been issued for her detainment so that she could be subpoenaed into court as a witness. The bench warrant resulted in Clackamas County, Oregon, sheriff's deputies raiding the Lance's farm ostensibly in search of Love. “If she (Love) were to testify, what she would say could only help Jack (Lance). I don't think that they really expected or even wanted to find her at our house, I think that they just wanted to harass me,” said Robert Lance.

Lance and Tyler case similarities

Reed is the same prosecutor who, with the help of Michaud, managed to convict Mark Tyler, 30, of Moyie Springs for the lesser crime of aggravated assault though the evidence indicates he is not guilty of aggravated assault. Tyler was accused of raping and assaulting his former girlfriend, known alcoholic, drug abuser and drug dealer Joyce Woodward (see The Idaho Observer, May, 1999 and June, 1999, for the whole corrupt story that resulted in the imprisonment of a provably innocent man).

Reed is not all that the Lance and Tyler cases have in common. Both Lance and Tyler have Public Defender Roger Williams representing them in Judge Michaud's court. Williams has been described by both Tyler and Lance's parents as a nice man but that he hasn't the courage to fight for truth and justice in these matters though both groups say that Williams knows both men are innocent of the crimes they are being charged with.

Perjury in the land of selective truth

Lance had a one-day trial January 6, 1999. At the trial the charges pertaining to possession of methamphetamine with intent to sell were dismissed by Judge Michaud due to a hung jury. Lance was convicted of possession of marijuana in excess of three ounces and remained free pending sentencing that was scheduled for February 19, 1999.

Unbeknownst to Lance and his parents, Boundary County Prosecutor Denise Woodbury had filed a motion of perjury against Lance January 28, 1999, for statements that he made during the hearing of January 6. “Harley Raymond Lance did wilfully(sic) and contrary to the oath that he would testify truly, state as true material matter, to wit: that he did not check into the Kootenai Valley Motel on or about April 24, 1998, which he well knew to be false, a violation of I.C. 18-5401, a felony,” Woodbury's motion dated January 28, 1999, stated.

According to over 200 years of American jurisprudence, the burden of proof lies with the prosecutor of crime(s). Woodbury has determined that Lance's statement that he never checked into the Kootenai Valley Inn is perjury although neither her office, nor the Boundary County Sheriff's Department has ever produced one legitimate piece of evidence that proves he did, indeed, check into that hotel room where the large quantities of drugs were allegedly found.

When Lance appeared for his presentencing hearing February 19, he was arrested for the perjury charge and sentencing was delayed to June 19. At sentencing, after the perjury had been rendered moot through plea bargain and time served, Judge Michaud arbitrarily reinstated the possession charges and sentenced him accordingly.

Lance's incarceration chronology

Lance was initially arrested April 25, 1998. He made a deal with his ex-wife Diana who posted bail in exchange for his signature on a quit claim for their community property.

After his release in Boundary County, Lance continued on to Libby where Diana had him arrested again for what appears to be getting mad at her on the phone when he attempted to talk to his daughter and wish her a happy birthday.

Diana then paid A-Z Bail Bonds of Sandpoint $500 and revoked the bond she had traded the quit claim for -- a dirty trick in anybody's book.

A friend of Lance posted his bail. According to Robert Lance, his son waited over an hour to be released after making bail. Then, as he was leaving the jail, a rusty knife was shoved into his hand and outside the door two representatives from A-Z Bail Bonds was waiting to rearrest him. “He immediately threw the knife down and the man tackled him to the ground and scraped his face in the gravel giving him a concussion. Rocks were imbedded in his eyes and to this day he is nearly blind in one eye,” said Robert Lance.

Lance was immediately rearrested on or about May 1, 1998, and bail was increased from $16,000 to $30,000. Robert Lance paid $5,000 cash and posted a note against his farm for $35,000.

Lance was free until he was arrested for what Woodbury had decided was perjury regarding his testimony that he had not rented a room at the Kootenai Valley Inn. Lance was incarcerated from February 19 forward and will be slowly making his way to a state institution in Boise to serve out his sentence for being at the wrong place at the wrong time in Boundary County.

Court sanctioned theft

When Lance was originally arrested, he had on him $1,108 that has been directly attributed to the sale of a vehicle and is not connected in any way to drugs. The money appears on the inventory list of Lance's personal effects. According to the Lances, Boundary County prosecutors have been trying to get their hands on that money since day one, but have not been able to do so.

The day after Lance had been sentenced, Denise Woodbury filed a motion to request a trial date so that the county could perhaps steal Lance's money while he was imprisoned and unable to defend himself.

The motion specifies the civil forfeiture of “ONE THOUSAND ONE HUNDRED EIGHT DOLLARS ($1,108) UNITED STATES CURRENCY”

The motion further states the plaintiff's (Denise Woodbury's) lack of interest that the money question be argued before a jury and that, “Plaintiff does not believe that mediation is an appropriate alternative for dispute resolution in this civil forfeiture matter.”

The trial date has been set for October 7, 1999.

In the mean time, Lance prepares for his appeal while sentenced to serve 2-6 years for being convicted of a crimes that had been dismissed in a mistrial.

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