Judge denies motion to dismiss in perjury case

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SANDPOINT - A 1st District judge denied on Tuesday a motion to dismiss a subornation of perjury charge against former Bonner County Clerk Ann Dutson-Sater, court records show.

Judge Benjamin Simpson issued the ruling from the bench following oral arguments on the defense motion in Coeur d'Alene.

The felony charge stems from Dutson-Sater allowing an organizer of a Lake Pend Oreille School District trustee recall to swear under oath that he had seen all of the signatures being gathered when he hadn't.

Dutson-Sater has said she mistakenly believed the recall backer could make the declaration because he had seen a majority of the signatures being collected.

The recall of Chairman Steve Youngdahl never got off the ground because organizers fell short of the required number of signatures needed to initiate an election. School district patrons sought the recall because Youngdahl advocated arming certain staff members to protect students in the event of a school shooting.

Dutson-Sater's counsel, Sandpoint attorney Josh Hickey, argued that the recall petition effectively ceased to exist after it was nullified, which meant that the subornation also ceased to exist.

The case's special prosecutor, Kootenai County Prosecutor Barry McHugh, called that argument illogical and argued that the voided petition did not nullify the subornation, court records indicate.

Simpson agreed and found that Dutson-Sater's representation to Bokowy resulted in a false oath regardless of whether the petition was valid or not.

Dutson-Sater, 56, is free on her own recognizance. She lost last fall's general election to Michael Rosedale.

A three-day jury trial is set for March.

Former Idaho Secretary of State Ben Ysursa filed an affidavit in the case stating that Dutson-Sater exercised poor judgment and made a serious mistake in administering election law, but that those missteps did not rise to the level of a felony offense in his view.

Ysursa said in the affidavit that the public interest is poorly served by criminalizing a clerk's efforts to assist the public in the administration of election laws.

"The public interest is even more poorly served by criminalizing a mistake when the mistake did not in the end result in holding an election when there were not enough signatures to force an election," Ysursa wrote.

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