COEUR d'ALENE - A jury in Kootenai County on Wednesday convicted a 56-year-old transient of stabbing a fellow camper in a wooded area behind the Coeur d'Alene Target retail store.
James H. Kountz is scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 6. His trial in 1st District Court on a charge of aggravated battery began Tuesday in front of Senior Judge Charles Hosack.
Kountz stabbed James R. Hoglen, another transient, in June. Prosecutors could not locate Hoglen to call him as a witness at trial, but Hoglen provided an account of what happened at the campsite at a preliminary hearing in late July.
Along with being convicted of aggravated battery, Kountz was found guilty of using a deadly weapon, which will enhance his sentence. He also has six prior felony convictions, making him a persistent violator.
During closing arguments Wednesday, Kootenai County deputy prosecutor Art Verharen said Kountz was not defending himself when he stabbed Hoglen.
"(Hoglen) had no knife, no club, no gun," Verharen said. "Was it reasonable for Mr. Kountz to immediately stab Mr. Hoglen?"
During the preliminary hearing, Hoglen said he had a confrontation with a third man whom Hoglen had given $15 to make a booze run to pick up a bottle of vodka and four 24-ounce cans of Hurricane High Gravity Lager.
After the trip to the store took the man four-and-a-half hours to complete, Hoglen said he slapped a cell phone out of the man's hand upon his return and then punched him in the face a couple times. Seconds later, he testified, Kountz charged him with knives in both hands.
Verharen added, "If you had already stabbed someone in the face, why would you need to continue stabbing someone in the torso?"
He also pointed out that Kountz was on the run for a couple days after the stabbing.
Hoglen said at the July hearing that he tried to shield himself with a broken lawn chair, but that didn't help.
Public defender Sarah Sears emphasized to the jury that Hoglen didn't want to press charges and said at the preliminary hearing that he didn't want to testify against a man he thought of as a friend.
Additionally, she said "things happened really fast" that day, making it more difficult to say who was the aggressor.
"In the woods, of course, there are knives," she said.
Hoglen suffered four serious stab wounds to his abdomen, two of which were 4-inch-long gashes. He also suffered a stab wound to the center of his face, severing nerves and affecting his breathing.
At the preliminary hearing, he pulled up his shirt to show the scars from the stabbing.
He said that once he realized how badly he was wounded he staggered through the wooded area to U.S. 95, where he crossed over a couple lanes to a grassy area in the center of the highway and collapsed. He spent six days in the hospital for treatment.
Kountz will be sentenced by either Hosack or Judge Benjamin Simpson. He currently is in custody.