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Witness intimidation charges added to case

by ANNISA KEITH
Staff Writer | February 15, 2022 1:00 AM

SANDPOINT — Statements allegedly made during a recorded phone call at the Bonner County Jail garnered a Sandpoint man an additional charge of attempted witness intimation.

Already detained on two lewd conduct charges and a charge of witness intimidation, James Ray Holbert, 45, also will proceed through the court process for a new attempted witness intimidation charge.

First District Magistrate Judge Tera Harden found probable cause for the charge on Jan. 5, 2022, finding “substantial and factual basis” that Holbert had committed the offense.

In a 37-minute phone call between Holbert and another adult at the Bonner County Jail on Jan. 4, Holbert asked the adult to say something to the victim about testifying in Holbert’s other open court case.

According to an affidavit of probable cause by Bonner County investigator Christian Frye, “during this 37-minute phone call, James Holbert appears to clearly attempt to persuade [the individual] to contact the victim for the purposes of wilfully intimidating, influencing and deterring the victim from testifying.”

Holbert remarked during the call that the victim ought to testify in the courtroom, as opposed to remotely over Zoom, saying that the victim has “no intimidation, no pressure, no nothing, she gets to stand in front of a computer and that’s it. So I have no chance.”

Holbert was already detained at the jail as a suspect in a sexual assault case for events that court documents indicate began in 2019.

First District Magistrate Judge Justin Julian found probable cause in the case, which according to court documents, is alleged to have taken place from July 2019 through March 2020, beginning when the victim was a pre-teen.

According to documents, Holbert strongly encouraged the victim in mid-November to not disclose details of the abuse to law enforcement, garnering a witness intimidation charge in that case.

Holbert has 16 other cases in the Idaho court database. Most notable is another case from 2014 in which Holbert was convicted of battery and assault in Kootenai County. According to court documents, Holbert pinned a woman against a wall and shoved the barrel of a handgun into her face and chest during an intoxicated argument. A standoff with law enforcement ensued before Holbert allowed himself to be apprehended. The case resulted in a withheld judgment with two years of unsupervised probation and 40 hours in the sheriff’s labor program.

A withheld judgment is a once-in-a-lifetime sentence where the court does not file documents finding the defendant guilty of a crime. This allows the defendant to petition to have the case dismissed once they complete the terms of sentencing — preventing the crime from going on their record.

Holbert appeared for arraignment in First District Court on Monday in both cases. However, it was unclear in court documents whether the proceedings will result in a jury trial.

Holbert was arrested after a brief standoff with law enforcement on Dec. 2. Three months later on Feb. 8, Holbert posted a combined $30,000 bail and is currently out on his own recognizance.

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