News

Monday, July 24, 2017

Judge will hear arguments over confidential reports in Spokane Valley marijuana grow case

Posted By on Mon, Jul 24, 2017 at 3:46 PM

Jerad Kynaston of Spokane Valley faces a mandatory life sentence if convicted of illegally growing marijuana. - YOUNG KWAK PHOTO
  • Young Kwak photo
  • Jerad Kynaston of Spokane Valley faces a mandatory life sentence if convicted of illegally growing marijuana.

In a marijuana grow-operation case that could send at least one man to prison for life and others to prison for decades, attorneys continue to spar over the contents of federal drug enforcement reports summarizing "free talks" between prosecutors and four of the defendants.

Federal prosecutors acknowledge that the reports themselves were not previously turned over to the defense, but argue that the information contained in them is not new. Plus, United States Attorneys say in court documents, that information learned from free talks is generally not disclosed until "all efforts to resolve the case have been exhausted," if it's revealed at all.

Defense attorneys disagree.

"The defense understands the need to protect cooperating witnesses, but not at the expense of the constitutional rights of the defendants," federal defender Alison Guernsey argues in court documents. "If the government were truly concerned about balancing its obligations to cooperators and defendants alike, then it could have sought the Court's review of the free talk materials years ago."

Defense attorneys argue that the five-year-old reports should have been revealed years ago, and suggest that the government's failure to do so is a basis for dismissing the case altogether.

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Trump's son-in-law denies Russian collusion, Phelps vs. shark fails to materialize, and morning headlines

Posted By on Mon, Jul 24, 2017 at 10:16 AM

Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympian in U.S. history, didn't race a great white shark after all. - DISCOVERY CHANNEL
  • Discovery Channel
  • Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympian in U.S. history, didn't race a great white shark after all.

ON INLANDER.COM

NEWS: A human trafficking crime in San Antonio over the weekend has claimed the lives of at least nine people. A total of 39 people, suffering from heatstroke and dehydration, were packed into a tractor-trailer when it was discovered in a Walmart parking lot. The truck's driver was taken into custody and will be charged. (via New York Times)

NEWS: Spokane County Democrats face more PDC problems.

WHAT'S UP? This week's event highlights include concerts from Herb Alpert & Lani Hall at the Fox, Parker Millsap at the Bartlett, and the return of Unifest to downtown Spokane.


IN OTHER NEWS
What did senior advisor Jared Kushner know about the Trump campaign's ties to Russia, and when did he know it?
  • What did senior advisor Jared Kushner know about the Trump campaign's ties to Russia, and when did he know it?


Jared's talking

President Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner denied colluding with Russian officials before a closed-door meeting with Senate investigators this morning. Kushner is a central piece of the Trump-Russia puzzle. (Washington Post)

No relief from fires
Multiple fires are burning in western Montana as Gov. Steve Bullock declared a state of emergency. The Lodgepole Complex, the state's largest fire, has burned about 226,000 acres and consumed a dozen homes in the northeastern part of the state. Closer to home, evacuations were ordered in Stevens County as a 200-acre wildfire burns near the town of Hunters. (The Missoulian, Montana Standard, Spokesman-Review)

No resolution in Olympia
Washington legislators have left the state capital without resolving a rural water-rights dispute or addressing a $4 billion construction budget. (The Olympian)

Phelps vs. shark? Not so much
U.S. Olympian Michael Phelps, a 23-time gold medalist, didn't actually race a great white shark last night; people who tuned into the Discovery Channel to watch the much-hyped spectacle aren't real happy about it. (New York Times)
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Friday, July 21, 2017

Lawyer who Spokane County Dems hired to help them contest a PDC complaint becomes subject of new complaint

Posted By on Fri, Jul 21, 2017 at 4:51 PM

Andrew Biviano, chair of the Spokane County Democrats, has been pushing to get the party out from under the cloud of Public Disclosure Commission issues. - DANIEL WALTERS PHOTO
  • Daniel Walters photo
  • Andrew Biviano, chair of the Spokane County Democrats, has been pushing to get the party out from under the cloud of Public Disclosure Commission issues.

If you're hiring an attorney to respond to a serious Public Disclosure Commission complaint, you probably can't do much better than Michael Connelly. He's not only an attorney, he's the former commissioner and chair of the PDC.

So when the Spokane County Democratic Party was facing an state attorney general investigation into months of late-reported, unreported and misreported Public Disclosure Commission reports, Connelly was exactly who they hired to review their response.

Now, another PDC complaint has accused the Spokane County Democrats of yet another PDC violation — for failing to report the money they paid or owed Connelly.

"I think it just annoyed me that they were not even trying to be in compliance, considering the fact they are in court with the AG right now," says complainant Glen Morgan, the Thurston County Republican responsible for a number of recent PDC complaints against Democrats. "It just confounds me."

Morgan writes in his complaint that the Spokane County Democrats hired Connelly to respond to his previous PDC complaint, and alleges that the Democrats have received bills from the attorney. But he says he can't find their evidence on the PDC filings. Morgan argues that the legal bills should have been recorded as payments, debt or an in-kind contribution.

"However, the [Spokane County Democrats have] chosen to violate the law instead, possibly and astoundingly in cooperation with a former PDC commissioner as legal counsel, who absolutely knows better than allowing his client to overtly violate the law like this," Morgan writes. "This specific violation of the statute is exceptional and unexplainable in this context."

But Andrew Biviano, chair of the Spokane County Democrats, said that shortly before the Inlander alerted him to the complaint last Friday, his team had already identified the error and amended their filings to include the money the Democrats owe Connelly.  He says that, in fact, Connelly has not been advising or reviewing the PDC reports the Democrats have been submitting.

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Homeless camp reported by KHQ dismantled, Spicer resigns, Trump takes on Mueller, and morning headlines

Posted By on Fri, Jul 21, 2017 at 9:54 AM

Destiny Brown was given three hours to clean up all her belongings and leave the campsite along the Spokane River where she'd been living for two months. - MITCH RYALS PHOTO
  • Mitch Ryals photo
  • Destiny Brown was given three hours to clean up all her belongings and leave the campsite along the Spokane River where she'd been living for two months.


ON INLANDER.COM

KHQ's anti-homeless patrol
The Inlander digs into a controversial KHQ segment where a reporter appears to make fun of a homeless camp without ever talking to the people who were living there. After the reporter called Spokane city code enforcement to complain about the camp, it was dismantled.

Apple care
How eating two cups of fruit and two to three cups of veggies a day can help keep the doctors away.


IN OTHER NEWS
With the arrival of a new White House communications director, Sean Spicer has resigned as White House press secretary.
  • With the arrival of a new White House communications director, Sean Spicer has resigned as White House press secretary.


Don't tell KHQ

More than 300 units of housing for the homeless are going up on Catholic Charities’ Sisters of the Holy Names property. (Spokesman-Review)

Want a horse?
Four horses recently rescued by SCRAPS are up for adoption. (KXLY)

Saturday Night Massacre fever
Just four of the stories involving President Trump that have broken in the past 24 hours: Trump's team has been investigating Special Counsel Robert Mueller, seeking ways to call his integrity into question. Trump's personal lawyer and his legal spokesman both resigned. Speculation is increasing about the idea that Trump is preparing to fire Mueller. Oh, and earlier this morning, White House Press Secretary/Melissa McCarthy impersonator Sean Spicer resigned as well. (The Atlantic, CBS News, Washington Post, New York Times)
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Thursday, July 20, 2017

How KHQ reported on homelessness from the other side of the river

Posted By and on Thu, Jul 20, 2017 at 3:35 PM


Destiny Brown, a homeless woman originally from Pennsylvania, with her dog, Mister: "If they can't see us, then they can't judge us. Maybe they should try and put their feet in our shoes. See how well they would do." - MITCH RYALS PHOTO
  • Mitch Ryals photo
  • Destiny Brown, a homeless woman originally from Pennsylvania, with her dog, Mister: "If they can't see us, then they can't judge us. Maybe they should try and put their feet in our shoes. See how well they would do."


Journalists are supposed to offer one thing to the people they cover — an opportunity to comment, to share their side, to give another perspective. It's only fair, the thinking goes.

But it doesn't always happen.

Local residents were introduced this week to a homeless camp on the banks of the Spokane River.

"It looks like they've kind of made themselves a little Spokane Riviera Country Club," KHQ's Peter Maxwell says at the beginning of a Facebook Live video, later calling the encampment a "full-blown country club for the Spokane homeless."

The video, broadcast on Tuesday, had been viewed almost 60,000 times and shared on social media about 240 times as of Wednesday evening. Some viewers took offense to Maxwell's comments, and KHQ has since removed it, but we saved a copy.


Standing across from the encampment on the south side of the river, Maxwell describes a "concrete wall," a dog and at least three people, one of whom is apparently wearing football pads.

"I don't know why he would be wearing those pads unless he's going to go try out for a team or something like that," Maxwell says mockingly. "Maybe someone's missing a pair of shoulder pads? If you are missing them, they're probably down here."

A later segment that aired on KHQ Tuesday evening described the camp as an eyesore in an otherwise up-and-coming neighborhood. Maxwell tells his viewers that he called Spokane's code enforcement to ask what can be done to "evict these people out from this camp."

What viewers didn't get, however, was the perspective of the people living there, context on how illegal camps can cause issues, or whether this specific camp has caused any problems.
Destiny Brown says she has been living at the camp for about two months. She says she's been on the waiting list for low-income housing for two years and has nowhere else to go. Before moving with her dog Mister to the banks of the Spokane River, she lived on the streets downtown.

"I'm spending most of my time trying to hide from the police or making sure my shit is concealed so that we don't get chased off," she says. "We're constantly having to move. I don't know what we did to people to piss them off, but we're not all that way. We're not."

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Who is the cops' lawyer? Why date on the internet? O.J. Simpson granted parole, and other morning headlines

Posted By on Thu, Jul 20, 2017 at 9:27 AM


ON INLANDER.COM

NEWS:
 Spokane-based Avista utility company has been sold for $5.3 billion.

INTERNET LOVE: (Nearly) 13 reasons why the internet has ruined modern dating.

COPS' LAWYER: When Spokane police find themselves in sticky situations, one guy is typically first on the list to call.


IN OTHER NEWS
O.J. SImpson: Granted an early release after serving nine years of a 33-year sentence.
  • O.J. SImpson: Granted an early release after serving nine years of a 33-year sentence.

On second thought...
President Trump says he wouldn't have appointed Jeff Sessions as attorney general had the president known Sessions was going to recuse himself from the Russia investigation (and other revelations from the New York Times interview with Trump).

Juicy release?
O.J. "Juice" Simpson is asking a Nevada parole board for an early release after serving nine years of a 33-year sentence for a 2007 kidnapping and armed robbery. (CNN)

Update: Simpson was granted parole, and will be released from prison as early as October. (CNN)

Two bodies, a gunshot and a fire in the Valley
An elderly woman was found in a burning Spokane Valley home with a gunshot to the head. Another person was found in the home, but their identity has not been released. One neighbor told police that she heard "explosions" and called 911. (Spokesman-Review)
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Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Avista being sold to Canadian company Hydro One for $5.3 billion

Posted By on Wed, Jul 19, 2017 at 3:22 PM


Local utility company Avista announced today that it will become a subsidiary of Hydro One, a Toronto-based electricity transmission and distribution utility, as part of a $5.3 billion, all-cash sale.

In an email to customers, Avista assured people that the company's headquarters will remain in Spokane, and they will continue to receive the same service under the same name they already do. As part of the deal, no layoffs will be made.

The company, which was founded in 1889 as Washington Water Power, will be "overseen by a Board of Directors with significant Pacific Northwest representation," Avista says in the email to customers, and "Scott Morris, our current board chair, president and CEO, will serve as chairman of the board."

Here are a few of the points Avista made about the merger:

  • Avista’s customers will continue to be provided with high quality and reliable energy services at a reasonable cost. Further, Avista and Hydro One share longstanding commitments to environmental stewardship and safety.
  • The communities Avista serves will continue to benefit from the important philanthropic and economic development support we provide. In fact, Hydro One has committed to doing even more – nearly doubling our current levels of community contributions and providing a $2 million annual contribution to the Avista Foundation.
  • Avista employees will see a continuation of the company essentially as it is today.
  • And the transaction delivers solid value to our shareholders, who will receive an attractive price of $53 for each of their shares.

Avista shares closed at $43.33 on Wednesday.

"With Hydro One as our partner, we will continue to uphold our longstanding commitment to environmental responsibility, innovation, safety and reliability," Avista says in the note to customers. "Hydro One will provide Avista with additional scale, helping us build a stronger foundation for our future and augmenting the resources available to us to continue to invest in our energy infrastructure and technology."

Find more here.
hydroone.jpg
AVISTA IS BEING SOLD TO HYDRO ONE
  • Avista is being sold to Hydro One

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Plan D for Mitch, Idaho court upholds Otter's grocery tax veto, Trump's Russian nesting dolls, and morning headlines

Posted By on Wed, Jul 19, 2017 at 9:22 AM

McConnell: Three letters down... 23 to go in Senate Republicans' attempt to repeal and replace Obamacare.
  • McConnell: Three letters down... 23 to go in Senate Republicans' attempt to repeal and replace Obamacare.

ON INLANDER.COM

NEWS: Does Mitch McConnell have a Plan D? The Senate Majority Leader's "repeal, don't replace" Plan C, the latest attempt to derail the Affordable Care Act, sank to the bottom of the Potomac shortly after being launched. It was torpedoed by three Republican women, including West Virginia Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, who said, "I did not come to Washington to hurt people." (via New York Times) President Trump's response? "Let Obamacare fail."

NEWS: With the county facing a $10 million budget deficit, Spokane County Commissioners Al French and Jeff Kerns warned of employee layoffs and cuts in criminal justice services and parks upkeep unless residents vote to increase the property tax levy by more than 1 percent.

SPORTS: How do the Eagles top last year's success on the football field? They don't, according to Big Sky Conference coaches and writers, who predicted that Eastern Washington — led by last year's breakout star, quarterback Gage Gubrud — would finish second to North Dakota this season. The Eagles open at Texas Tech in six weeks.


IN OTHER NEWS

More Russian nesting dolls
Trump: Two hours with Vladimir Putin in Hamburg apparently wasn't enough.
  • Trump: Two hours with Vladimir Putin in Hamburg apparently wasn't enough.

A stunning 6,000-word investigative report alleges that Donald Trump's business empire owes its existence to a steady flow of money from Russian mobsters and oligarchs, who used their purchases of Trump properties to launder billions of dollars over the past three decades. (The New Republic, MSNBC)

An eighth man was in the room during Donald Trump Jr.'s June 2016 Trump Tower meeting with campaign officials and Russian representatives — financier and suspected money launderer Irakly Kaveladz. (New York Times)

Seven months after its diplomatic properties in Maryland and on Long Island were seized in response to meddling in the 2016 presidential election, the Russian government issued new threats against the United States. American intelligence agencies have said that don't want the properties back in Russian hands. (New York Times)

The White House confirmed that President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin met not once but twice at the G20 summit meeting in Hamburg earlier this month, engaging in an impromptu discussion at a dinner with world leaders that lasted as long as an hour and relied solely on a Kremlin-provided interpreter. (New York Times)

Meanwhile, in the Gem State...
Idaho's Supreme Court upheld Gov. Butch Otter's veto of a bill repealing a 6 percent tax on groceries. And after being sued by the state Democratic Party, Idaho's Secretary of State said he won't hand over detailed voter information to President Trump's election-fraud commission as part of the settlement. (Idaho Statesman, Idaho Press-Tribune)

Institutional abuse
A new report by Disability Rights Washington reveals neglect and dangerous, even deadly, conditions for disabled people living in four state-run facilities, one in Medical Lake, resulting in federal sanctions and cuts in funding. (US News & World Report, KING)

The fires this time
No less than 20 forest fires continue to rage across tinder-dry central and southern British Columbia. The blazes, which have forced nearly 46,000 people to evacuate their homes, have burned more than 800,000 acres across the province this season. (CBC)
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Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Spokane County commissioners send property tax increase to voters, warn of potential budget cuts if it fails

Criminal justice services, parks upkeep and employee layoffs are all at stake

Posted By on Tue, Jul 18, 2017 at 4:06 PM

Al French: Warns of reduced county services.
  • Al French: Warns of reduced county services.

Last week, with the county facing a $10 million budget shortfall, the Spokane County Board of Commissioners voted to send a proposition to voters that would allow for an increase in the property tax levy by more than 1 percent.

To be clear, the Republican commissioners say they don't necessarily support the idea to raise the tax rate beyond its current limit. But at the same time, they're warning of the consequences to county services if the initiative fails: layoffs for county employees, sacrifices to the criminal justice system, and reductions in maintenance to county parks.

"Without it passing, clearly, there is no element of the county structure that is not going to be under scrutiny," says Commissioner Al French.

Commissioners have said that revenue was not keeping up with costs to run the county for a while, due in large part to a lack of state funding, says French. This proposition represents an effort to add more revenue. Under state law, the county cannot raise the property tax levy by more than 1 percent. Yet the state law allows some slack to lift that cap, if approved by voters.

If the initiative is approved, the county's property tax levy could be raised by up to 25 cents per $1,000 of assessed value in 2018. That would represent up to an 18 percent increase. It would generate an additional $17 million per year for the county if the rate is raised that much, according to county communications director Jared Webley.

The proposition will appear on the November ballot. In the meantime, there are three major areas that the two remaining county commissioners, French and Josh Kerns, say is at stake. And at least in their comments to the Inlander, they make the situation sound bleak.

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Spokane City Council passes climate-change ordinance, Senate health care bill fails, and morning headlines

Posted By on Tue, Jul 18, 2017 at 9:30 AM


HERE


Spokane City Council President Ben Stuckart was one of six "yes" votes on the ordinance.
  • Spokane City Council President Ben Stuckart was one of six "yes" votes on the ordinance.
Council passes climate-change ordinance
After some public debate, the Spokane City Council codified the city's commitment to sustainability and combating climate change in a 6-1 vote. (Spokesman-Review)

Two dead in Valley house fire
Two people died after an explosion and fire in Spokane Valley. Neighbors say they heard the explosion around 1:40 this morning. Police are investigating; the victims have not been identified. (KHQ)

County board down to two
Shelly O'Quinn has served her last day on the Spokane County Board of Commissioners — about a month later than she had originally intended. (Spokesman-Review)


THERE

Obamacare repeal fails
The Senate Republican plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act has been killed, for now, thanks to two Republicans who announced their opposition to the measure yesterday — one of whom fellow Republicans believed would never oppose it. (NPR)

Now, President Trump says that Congress should just repeal Obamacare without a plan to replace it. (New York Times)

Trump's bill signings
Trump likes to say that he's signed more bills "than any president, ever." In truth, he's a little behind the average. (New York Times)
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