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Man arrested on assault charges

by LAUREN REICHENBACH
Staff Writer | June 23, 2024 1:00 AM

SAGLE — A Clark Fork man has been arrested following an alleged assault against two men who were recently seeking political office in Bonner County.

According to Bonner County Sheriff’s reports, late last month, deputies were called to a Sagle business after reports of an assault had been made. The suspect, Michael Franco, was detained across the street from the business while deputies spoke to the two alleged victims.

The alleged victims were two men who filed for political office this year — Daniel Rose, who is seeking the State Senate District 1 seat as an independent, and Spencer Hutchings, who had recently lost in the primaries for the House of Representatives District 1A seat.

Rose allegedly told deputies he had been visiting Hutchings at his business in Sagle when Franco entered the building.

“Hutchings immediately told him to leave as he is known to cause problems,” the probable cause affidavit said. “[Rose] also told him to leave and he refused.”

Court records contend that Franco was attempting to speak with Rose, who agreed to step outside the store to have a conversation with him. After Franco exited the store, Rose allegedly told deputies he attempted to close the door behind Franco, who put his foot in the door to prevent being locked out.

“Franco then grabbed [Rose] by the shirt and pulled him outside,” a deputy wrote in the probable cause affidavit. “They began to struggle and Franco pulled him to the ground where he proceeded to hit [Rose] in the chest.”

Rose told deputies that Hutchings yelled for Franco to stop, but was ignored. Court records contend that Hutchings began to hit Franco in the back of the head in an attempt to get him off of Rose. When Franco eventually got up, he allegedly knocked Hutchings’ phone out of his hand.

“Franco then hit Hutchings in the upper body with his hands,” the affidavit contends.

As Franco fled the scene, he allegedly stomped on Hutchings’s phone, causing it to break.

Deputies noted that Hutchings’s story matched that of Rose when he was interviewed about the situation. Both men allegedly declined medical treatment for the injuries they reported to deputies.

When speaking to law enforcement, Franco alleged that after being asked to step outside to talk with Rose, Hutchings allegedly began hitting him in the back of the head “for no reason.”

In partially released security camera footage, it appears that the incident played out differently than was reported by the men. However, a full video of the assault has not been made available to the public.

Franco was arrested on two counts of battery and was booked into the jail. His bail was set at $300 for each battery and was served a no-contact order by both men.

Franco has continued to maintain his innocence, speaking publicly at two Bonner County Board of Commissioners meetings.

“I am innocent,” he said during the May 28 meeting. “The very extreme, violent person is still at large.”

Franco again spoke during the June 4 business meeting, claiming his innocence in the matter.

“I am still an innocent man,” he repeated. “We need to ask ourselves why an extreme, violent man is walking amongst us …”

Franco said that the third person at the incident, presumably Rose, and he have been friendly since roughly 2003 when they supported the same political candidate.

“What I was doing with that individual in Sagle was trying to locate him and give him one last chance to encourage him to leave a cult-like entity,” Franco said.

Rose has also spoken out about the incident in a press release.

“It is an unfortunate event that was not staged for political effect, and which did result in real medical injuries/complications and property damage,” Rose said.

Franco’s jury trial is set for July 25.