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Probable cause found for witness intimidation, other charges

Staff Writer | January 9, 2022 1:00 AM

SANDPOINT — A Sandpoint man will continue through the court process on two charges of lewd conduct as well as a charge of witness intimidation.

First District Magistrate Judge Justin Julian found James Ray Holbert, 45, to have probable cause for the conduct which is alleged to have taken place from July 2019 through March 2020, beginning when the victim was a pre-teen. According to a probable cause affidavit, the victim was strongly encouraged in mid-November by Holbert to not disclose details of the abuse to law enforcement. Another adult, who is not being charged in this case, is alleged to have contributed to discouraging the victim’s disclosure. In the interest of protecting the individual’s privacy, this adult will remain unnamed.

During a forensic interview on Nov. 22, the victim alleged she was assaulted by Holbert on more than two occasions, one of which where she was physically restrained by Holbert.

According to a probable cause affidavit, the victim disclosed the abuse in writing to the aforementioned adult, causing Holbert to cease further acts of abuse. Court documents indicate that Holbert confessed that he “may have done some stuff” when the adult approached Holbert with the allegations. The pages of Holbert’s alleged abuse have since been torn from the journal they were written in, according to court documents.

Although the victim disclosed the abuse in 2020, the adult involved did not report the information to law enforcement. The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare received information of the abuse from an unnamed party on Nov. 15, according to court documents.

On Nov. 17, law enforcement and a social worker went to the victim’s residence to find the victim talking on the phone. When asked if the victim was coached on what to say to law enforcement, she said no. “He just told me what was going to happen and that you guys would probably take me away from here.”

According to court documents, prior to the victim’s contact with law enforcement, Holbert texted the victim saying that “he needed her to help him out with something.” Shortly afterward, Holbert and the adult told the victim she would not see her family again if the abuse was reported. In the forensic interview, the victim said that Holbert and the adult made her feel responsible for the legal actions taken against Holbert.

In a following phone conversation with the adult, the victim was encouraged to “either tell the truth or make up a lie, because that was what she is good at,” a statement which infuriated the victim according to notes from the forensic interview.

Holbert is scheduled to appear for arraignment on Feb. 7.

Even though allegations were not reported to law enforcement initially, the victim discussed their feelings about the unfolding court proceedings according to notes taken from the forensic interview

“She felt a little betrayed and sad, but thankful to whichever one of her friends’ or friends’ parents who reported the abuse to Health & Welfare, because she would have never had the guts to report it because of all the things she have been told would happen if the abuse was disclosed,” according to the Nov. 22 interview.

Many victims of sexual abuse come forward to a trusted person before reporting to law enforcement. For those who do not have a trusted person, there are many local resources available to protect and advocate for victims on their behalf. LillyBrooke Family Justice Center can be reached 24/7 by calling 208-265-3586. There is no statute of limitations for sexual abuse against minors.

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