POCATELLO — A local judge on Tuesday declined to accept a guilty plea from a former Pocatello police officer who allegedly held a pistol to a woman’s head before attempting to strangle her on New Year’s Day.
Ryan R. Davis, 30, of Pocatello, was not allowed to plead guilty to one of two felony charges as part of a plea bargain he reached with Bannock County prosecutors in March because he would not admit to a specific element of the crime alleged in the criminal complaint filed against him.
Davis appeared for the Tuesday afternoon hearing remotely, which was hosted on Zoom, with 6th District Judge Javier Gabiola appearing from the Bannock County Courthouse in Pocatello.
Charged with two felonies — aggravated assault and attempted strangulation — and facing up to 20 years in prison if convicted of both charges, Davis agreed in March to plead guilty to the aggravated assault charge in exchange for prosecutors dismissing the attempted strangulation charge.
According to the criminal complaint filed against Davis when he was arrested and charged in January, Davis “unlawfully, and with apparent ability, attempted to commit a violent injury upon (the female victim in this case) with a deadly weapon … by holding/pointing a gun at her head.”
During the Tuesday hearing, Davis provided Gabiola with a brief recitation of the events that transpired on New Year’s Eve and into New Year’s Day, but would not confirm he held or pointed a gun at the woman’s head.
“On Dec. 31, 2019, we went out to the bars to celebrate New Year’s Eve, ended up having an argument at the bar and ended up separating,” Davis said when describing the New Year’s Day incident that led to the charges against him. “When I returned home, (the victim) was there and we continued arguing. At one point I removed a firearm from its holster and pointed it at myself as I threatened to take my own life. In doing this, I have no doubt this could have put (the victim) in fear for her life or serious injury.”
The Pocatello police report regarding this incident, which the Idaho State Journal obtained in January, alleges the physical confrontation between Davis and the woman started with Davis grabbing the woman’s neck, which made it difficult for her to breathe. He also allegedly pulled her hair as she attempted to go up the stairs of the Pocatello home where the incident occurred.
The woman was able to break free and run to the kitchen, where she got a bread knife to protect herself, police said.
The woman reportedly put the knife down, but when she tried to leave the kitchen, Davis grabbed her and threw her “back and forth down the hallway,” police said.
A short time later, Davis allegedly got a handgun from the closet and placed it against the woman’s forehead. Then he turned the gun on himself and tried to get the woman to pull the trigger on two occasions, police said. Instead, she resisted him and talked him into putting the gun down and was eventually able to leave the house and walk to a relative’s home, according to police.
She was transported by private vehicle to Portneuf Medical Center in Pocatello, and she had sustained a broken wrist and bruises on her knees and neck during the incident, police said.
Gabiola on several occasions asked clarifying questions in an attempt to get an “unequivocal yes” from Davis regarding whether or not he did point or hold the gun toward the victim in this case, but to no avail.
Davis’ Pocatello attorney, Robert Otto Eldredge Jr., explained to Gabiola that although his client’s recollection of the events during the early hours of Jan.1 did not include him pointing or holding the gun toward the female victim, Davis conceded to the fact he was likely more intoxicated than the female victim and was not discrediting her version of what happened.
Further, Eldredge stated that regardless of whether or not Davis admits to pointing the gun at the victim in this case, the fact that he possessed a firearm and caused the victim to be in fear for her life and safety met the minimum requirements of an aggravated assault charge, according to Idaho statutes.
Additionally, Eldredge said that during the incident the gun in Davis’ hand was being waved around wildly, and it was very likely the gun at one instance was pointed directly at the female victim, though Davis does not remember holding it against her head.
Nonetheless, Gabiola expressed his concern in accepting what was, in essence, a partial admission considering the criminal complaint filed against Davis specifically mentioned him pointing the gun directly at the female victim.
Ultimately, Gabiola did not accept Davis’ guilty plea and advised Eldredge and the court-appointed prosecutor handling the case, Doug Wood out of Caribou County, to decide whether the criminal complaint against Davis needs amended or whether Davis will need to admit to pointing the gun directly at the victim in this case.
“I’m having a hard time being able to accept this plea with what has been stated,” Gabiola said. “If (Davis) does not remember what happened I don’t know how he could honestly and freely admit to this charge. I am going to continue this matter for another day … and I think there needs to be further discussion between the parties and Mr. Davis as to what he is actually pleading to and what he will admit to.”
Davis is due back in court for a hearing in which it’s expected he will plead guilty to the aggravated assault charge on May 26.
Davis previously worked for the Pocatello Police Department but left in the fall of 2019, according to authorities. He had been with the department for approximately three years.