COEUR d'ALENE - The criminal history of a declared candidate for Kootenai County sheriff might prevent him from entering the race.
Adam M. Johnson, a former North Idaho businessman and Post Falls Chamber of Commerce board member who played a central role in a high-profile shooting in downtown Coeur d'Alene, announced in January he planned to run.
It's not the shooting, however, but a guilty plea to a heroin possession charge, a felony, last year that might derail his shot at being the county's top cop.
"I knew he was convicted of a felony," said Kootenai County Clerk Cliff Hayes. "I asked the prosecutor to review the law."
Barry McHugh, the county's prosecutor, submitted a written opinion on Wednesday.
"In conclusion, it is my opinion that Mr. Johnson is not qualified to file a declaration of candidacy until his rights are restored," McHugh wrote.
Hayes said if Johnson shows up to file for sheriff, he'll be told he's not eligible.
Johnson, 27, said Thursday, "It's an opinion, and not a matter of law."
He said he plans to file soon and see what happens from there.
"It's something I'm passionate about, and I want to proceed," Johnson said. "Obviously, somebody has a concern that I'm running."
He said he's consulting with legal counsel for guidance as he proceeds.
"It's uncharted territory," Johnson said.
He wants to follow the law, he said, it's just not clear what it is in this case.
In McHugh's evaluation of Johnson's ability to run for sheriff, he pointed out that Johnson is on supervised probation for the heroin conviction.
Johnson in January received what's called a "withheld judgment" on the heroin charge, so if he completes the two years of probation he was ordered to serve without violations the case against him will be dismissed. Until then, he's considered a convicted felon, according to a July 1991 written opinion by the Idaho attorney general's office, which McHugh forwarded to the clerk's office along with his own opinion.
It is possible for Johnson to restore his right to hold office before the probation period has ended.
According to Idaho law, McHugh wrote, "Mr. Johnson could petition the court and be granted early termination of his probation prior to filing his petition for candidacy."
Therefore, McHugh said, if the proper steps were followed and if the court sees fit, Johnson could become qualified to be a candidate and hold civil office.
Johnson also was charged in Kootenai County in connection with a shooting in downtown Coeur d'Alene in December 2009.
He was the alleged shooter in that confrontation, which sent two Moses Lake, Wash., men to the hospital.
In that case, he was sentenced to 10 days in jail for carrying a concealed weapon while under the influence, a misdemeanor.
A grand jury decided against felony charges.