COEUR d'ALENE - A St. Maries man was found guilty last week of disturbing the peace for firing a shotgun over the head of a U.S. Census worker.
Richard Powell, 55, was ordered to spend five days in jail and pay $437.50 in fines and court costs as a result of the misdemeanor offense stemming from a March 3, 2010, incident.
Powell fired the shotgun as a way to chase Raymond Stanis from Powell's property. Stanis had tried to deliver Powell a United States Census questionnaire.
"Whether or not people are unhappy with the federal government, this type of conduct is way over the top," said Doug Payne, Benewah County prosecutor, "And I think that's what the jury thought."
Powell had originally been charged with exhibition or use of a deadly weapon, also a misdemeanor, but the charge was reduced to the lesser offense shortly before the Feb. 23 trial.
Payne said the reason for the lesser charge was to avoid confusing language in the Idaho statute regarding exhibition or use of a deadly weapon.
The exhibition or use of deadly weapon statute identifies people who use or draw any deadly weapon unnecessarily "in the presence of two or more persons."
Confusion on whether the two or more includes the alleged weapon user prevented the exhibition charge, Payne said.
Powell fired the shot over Stanis' car as Stanis was trying to leave Powell's property at 396 Powell Road just outside St. Maries.
Powell testified that he was in a hurry to visit his sick mother, Payne said, and that he was frustrated when Stanis wouldn't leave his property.
Powell told Stanis repeatedly to "leave now," and when Stanis told Powell he would leave the questionnaire outside, Powell entered his home and returned outside to fire the weapon about 15 feet over the worker's car, according to reports from the Benewah County Sheriff's Office.
"There was no reason for that, I was leaving," Stanis, a longtime Benewah County resident, told Powell according to sheriff's reports.
Powell then said he would wipe the smirk off Stanis' face, and that he meant business, according to sheriff's reports.
Payne said that regardless of the conversation, firing the shot was a violation.
"It doesn't matter what he said, he fired a gun," Payne said. "It is the definition of disturbing the peace in Idaho."
The daylong trial wrapped up after the jury deliberated for less than 15 minutes. Powell will begin serving his sentence March 11.
Powell did not return a message left by The Press seeking comment, and his attorney, David Lohman, did not have authority from his client Wednesday afternoon to speak about the case.