SANDPOINT — A peculiar felony assault case drew to an anticlimactic close on Monday.
Paul Fagerlie Finman pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of disturbing the peace for using a tractor to dismantle an occupied home on his property in Vay in 2010.
The three occupants fled the home and Finman was charged with three counts of aggravated assault.
Finman, 56, was to be tried this week in 1st District Court, but the prosecution and the defense negotiated a settlement that amended one of the counts and dismissed the other two.
The alleged victims in the case were unavailable testify at trial, according to Bonner County Prosecutor Louis Marshall. Marshall said the family’s patriarch, a dyed-in-the-wool sovereign citizen, declined to let his wife and two children testify because he does not acknowledge the legitimacy of Idaho’s government.
Marshall called Finman’s conduct “reckless, criminal and inappropriate,” but noted that nobody was hurt during the episode.
“They were simply scared,” said Marshall.
Finman entered his plea and Judge Benjamin Simpson imposed a sentence of 180 days in jail 178 days suspended and credit for two days Finman already served. He was also ordered to pay more than $400 in fines and court costs.
Simpson placed Finman on unsupervised probation for 60 days and granted a withheld judgment. If he successfully fulfills all his court-ordered obligations, Finman can petition the court to strike the conviction from his criminal record.
“It was a very bizarre situation,” Finman said of his entanglement with Alexander Duncan Campbell, who was being evicted from the property at the time of the incident.
Campbell was not home when Finman used the lift tongs on a tractor to pierce through the walls of the modest home, but Campbell’s wife and minor children were. They told authorities they fled fearing for their lives.
The defense disputed the degree of fear the occupants experienced, pointing out that they made repeated phone calls and his daughter remained in the home to document the destruction with a camera.
Finman described his ordeal as a drawn-out nightmare that lasted 18 months.
“This has been a substantial stress in his life,” said Jeremy Featherston, Finman’s defense counsel.
The whereabouts of Campbell and his family were not known on Monday. Campbell is wanted on arrest warrants from Kootenai and Nez Perce counties for motor vehicle-related violations and possession of a concealed weapon without a permit.
The case put the county in the awkward position of prosecuting a law-abiding entrepreneur in order to represent a family whose patriarch identifies with a subculture that has no regard for municipal, state or federal government. The FBI labels sovereigns as an “extremist anti-government group.”
Finman has sharply criticized the county for prosecuting him and accused officials of providing a safe haven for extremists. Chief Deputy Prosecutor Shane Greenbank and Sheriff Daryl Wheeler rejected those claims and made no apologies for their handling of the case.
“It was a pretty troubling case for both sides,” said Simpson, who did not elaborate.
In addition to the Bonner County land involved in this case, Finman, and his wife, Lorna, own LCF Enterprises, located in Riverbend Commerce Park in Post Falls. LCF designs power amplifiers for military and commercial applications.
The Finmans founded Discover Technology, formerly The North Idaho Discovery Association, a nonprofit that fosters youth learning and innovation through science and technology. The organization supports robotics and other youth science programs throughout North Idaho.
Discover Technology is in the process of developing the youth STAR Science Center in Rathdrum.
Related story published Sept. 21
Assault case comes into sharper focus
By KEITH KINNAIRD
Hagadone News Network
SANDPOINT — Court documents and police reports are painting a fuller picture in a peculiar Bonner County assault case.
Little was known about the circumstances surrounding an incident in which a Vay landowner used a John Deere tractor to dismantle a home on his property with a woman and two children still inside.
The episode resulted in three felony assault charges against Paul Fagerlie Finman, who faces trial in 1st District Court this fall.
Court documents and other records, meanwhile, reveal that Finman, 56, was entangled in a dispute with an adherent of the sovereign citizen movement named Alexander Duncan Campbell.
Finman inherited the entanglement with the property he purchased off Bandy Road in Vay. Campbell, his wife, son and daughter were living on a home on the ranch rent-free.
Eviction proceedings commenced after Finman said he received what he considered to be a death threat from Campbell veiled in Biblical verse. The defense maintains Finman was unaware Campbell’s wife and children were inside when he began destroying the home to deter squatters.
Campbell, 66, was not at the home during the incident.
Campbell’s children testified at a preliminary hearing that they feared for their lives during the ordeal, although his teenage daughter managed to find the time to document the destruction with a camera from within the home.
Campbell was also in repeated phone contact with his wife during the incident.
“They are just being herded by Mr. Campbell. They don’t do anything independently of him,” said Jeremy Featherston, Finman’s Sandpoint defense attorney.
Campbell did not respond to a phone message seeking comment.
Featherston subpoenaed Campbell to testify at a preliminary hearing, but he dodged it by claiming he was improperly identified in the document.
The state has no interest in Campbell as a witness because he was not present when the home was being destroyed.
“He has absolutely zero to do with this case,” said Deputy Prosecutor Shane Greenbank.
While charges are pending against Finman, Campbell is waging war with the justice system and evading arrest, according to court documents in Kootenai and Nez Perce counties.
He’s charged in Kootenai County with carrying a concealed weapon without a permit, in addition to charges of failing to have a driver’s license, vehicle registration or insurance. He’s wanted on an arrest warrant from Nez Perce County for failing to appear on another driver’s license charge.
Campbell’s voluminous pro se filings in those matters bear all the hallmarks of sovereign citizen ideology — hyper-particular punctuation and capitalization, declarations that government is a racket and an abiding contempt for authority.
“With no legitimate governmental, judicial, or police authority, the current regimes at all levels rank no higher than a commune that depends for its existence on attracting voluntary members,” Campbell said in a lengthy Aug. 25 filing.
Campbell, also known as Alexander-Duncan: Campbell, is seeking $65,000 an hour in damages dating back to his 2008 arrest in Nez Perce County. He’s also trying to have his cases heard by the Washington Supreme Court.
The FBI rates sovereigns as domestic terrorists. The Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors antigovernment groups, said sovereigns use their complex belief systems to orchestrate financial scams, evade taxes and slip past all sorts of government regulation.
Last year, a father-son team of sovereigns murdered two police officers during a traffic stop in West Memphis, Ark., according to SLPC.
Bonner County’s handling of the Finman case and Campbell has raised questions about the county’s willingness to stand up to sovereigns. Some question how a respected businessman can be prosecuted while a sovereign citizen unabashedly defies authorities seemingly without repercussion.
Authorities in Kootenai County had no qualms about arresting Campbell last June for having homemade license plate and a concealed 9-millimeter pistol with a round in the chamber and a full clip. But Finman said he had to “shame” a Bonner County sheriff’s deputy into arresting Campbell on the active warrant out of Nez Perce County the day he was arrested for the alleged assaults.
“It was clear to me that the Bonner County Sheriff’s Office was only targeting the honest Idaho taxpayer and landowner while protecting and enabling a sovereign citizen from out of state who does not acknowledge Idaho laws or the laws of the United States of America,” Finman said in an email to The Daily Bee.
Greenbank disputes that Bonner County coddles sovereigns.
“Anybody who violates the law, we’re going to treat it like any other case — whether you’re a sovereign or not,” said Greenbank.
Finman’s five-day jury trial is set for next month. A defense motion to dismiss the case against him is pending.