From the February 2002 Idaho Observer:

Dover man returns to Bonner county jail after appeal for retrial granted

Wrongfully convicted Prewitt one step closer to freedom

SANDPOINT -- Wrongfully convicted and incarcerated former Dover resident Rex Prewitt, 45, was returned to the Bonner County Jail February 6 after having his appeal granted late last year. Prewitt's return to the jail where it all started was accomplished in advance of a new trial that could take place as early as next month.

Prewitt was asleep on his couch at approximately 11:30 p.m. January 25, 1999, when Bonner County sheriff's deputies Eric Skinner and Bill Tillson pepper sprayed and then shot the man through the left hand and right shoulder.

Deputies claim they were investigating an attempted burglary that had occurred an hour earlier at Snow River Sheepskins in downtown Sandpoint. Deputies claim that after announcing themselves a drunken Prewitt was sprayed and shot after emerging from his rural home and pulling a gun on them.

Exhaustive study of official police reports and crime scene photos have produced scores of details that illuminate inconsistencies in the deputies' continually evolving testimony in this case. Most notably the gun Prewitt allegedly pulled on them was unloaded and was not covered in blood as one would expect had it been held by a man who was shot in the hand holding it. Deputies also claim that they approached the Prewitt residence with emergency lights flashing and that the Prewitt's porch light was on. Witnesses have sworn that deputies did not approach with emergency lights and that the Prewitt home was totally dark.

While deputies' stories have changed several times in an attempt to explain their actions that night, Prewitt's story has never changed and is consistent with witness accounts and physical and forensic evidence.

It appears that what really happened is the deputies took it upon themselves to investigate what should be classified as misdemeanor vandalism late at night in violation of police protocols. When Prewitt opened the door to see what his dogs were barking at, the deputies panicked, shot the man and tried to cover their actions by planting a gun and claiming he had pulled it on them.

Prewitt was sentenced to serve 7-10 years for aggravated assault on a police officer June 6, 1999 after entering an Alford plea to avoid what Prewitt feared would be a horribly one-sided trial in Judge Michaud's courtroom. Since that time, Prewitt has been studying law and, with the help of a team of supporters, has earned the right to a new trial.

Where Prewitt was all alone and unable to defend himself against Bonner county machinery in 1999, he is not alone any more. It will be interesting to see how much county money Prosecutor Phil Robinson is willing to spend in the effort to send Prewitt back to prison when the man's innocence is apparent upon review of official records and documents.

The Idaho Observer has spent hundreds of hours investigating this story and has given extensive coverage to this travesty. The evidence speaks for itself. See The Idaho Observer, July, 1999 and February, 2001 for details of this case.

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