Bingham County Sheriff Craig Rowland

Bingham County Sheriff Craig Rowland

BLACKFOOT — A jury trial for Bingham County Sheriff Craig Rowland was moved back a week to July 25 at 1:30 p.m. because of scheduling conflicts with one of the alleged victims in the case, District Judge Stephen Dunn decided Thursday in a pre-trial conference via Zoom.

Lead Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Nye, the prosecutor in the Rowland case, said there was a conflict with an adult female victim involving a 10-day-long vacation with extended family, but she was willing to make adjustments to have the trial begin July 25.

“We will not move it again,” Dunn said. “We will stay as long as we can that Monday for jury selection.”

Dunn also said he was not aware of any such justification for defense witness testimony from sheriffs or former sheriffs around the state, testifying to their own training and experience and what they may have done in a similar experience, saying he wants some briefing on that from both sides.

“Does (Rowland) get some kind of special accommodation because of that to decide” whether Dunn will allow such an argument to be made, the judge questioned. Dunn said he wants a briefing on that no later than July 15.

Rowland is charged with aggravated battery, aggravated assault, and exhibition or use of a deadly weapon after he reportedly stopped a church group who had left a Thanksgiving card at his door in November and reportedly grabbed the group’s chaperone by her hair, pulled her out of the car by force and threatened her by pointing a gun at her head.

He also reportedly pointed the gun briefly at two children.

Dunn said at the beginning of the conference that he was hopeful the parties would come to some kind of resolution on dates but it was not settled.

Rowland’s defense attorney, Justin Oleson, presented the motion to continue the trial along with some other motions. Oleson, who also serves as the Custer County prosecutor, said he didn’t want to be preparing for two trials at the same time and there were some questions of witness availability.

“I have a full slate and I’ve got to have some time to prepare,” Oleson said. The week before July 18, Oleson said, he has two trials in Challis on a sex offense case and a grand theft case.

Initially, Dunn said he was “a little bit not persuaded (to move the trial date) as much by conflicts if we’re talking about your work as a prosecutor,” saying in that capacity he has flexibility to reschedule those cases.

“That would be wholly inappropriate,” Oleson said, adding that the problem is the prosecution in the Rowland case has a victim that couldn’t show on July 18.

Dunn noted that Oleson had three months since Rowland’s arraignment to make whatever preparations were necessary.

“I’m having a hard time being sympathetic, I’m always more inclined to accommodate witnesses than I am attorneys’ schedules,” he added. “I’m disinclined to move the trial. I will not push this into the school year, I’m not going to put these minors in a position to miss school in September.”

Dunn said this is the kind of case in the community that needs to be resolved expeditiously.

Nye said there were scheduling conflicts around a woman listed as a victim and her husband, who is scheduled to be a witness, and there was not a week available between now and Sept. 19 when all witnesses and alleged victims would be available.

Dunn said the seven victims were his primary concern because he said he knew Oleson could get ready.

“If we can’t move it, I’m going to move to withdraw,” pushing for the following week, Oleson said.

Dunn said he was inclined to move the trial a week out for the adult victim who has a conflict.

Motions included defense objections to a Ring doorbell video and using trespassing as a defense. Dunn said he wanted some briefing to show why the motions should be resolved in the defense’s favor, saying he would need that by July 6 by 1:30 via Zoom.

There will be 80 potential jurors in numbered seats in the courtroom gallery for jury selection, Dunn said. He added that the circumstances of questioning jurors would be “so unusual” because of the nature of this case.

Dunn questioned Oleson wanting to call every sheriff in the state of Idaho as witnesses. Oleson said they would bring needed training and experience, and could say what they would do if they were in the same experience.

There was some question whether Rowland was acting in his official capacity.

“When you are sheriff you are acting as the sheriff 24/7,” Oleson argued. Dunn indicated he won’t refer to “Sheriff” Rowland during the trial, that he felt Rowland was acting as a private citizen.

Rowland has continued to work as sheriff during the case despite calls for his resignation, in part because he blamed his actions on the possibility that the group could have been “drunk Indians,” though he is not allowed access to firearms.