POLSON – A Pablo man accused of a “vicious” attack on a jailer is asking a court to dismiss the charges immediately and release him from jail, on the grounds that the Lake County Attorney’s Office has been unreasonably slow in getting him arraigned.
Prosecutors dispute that, and say any delay helped, rather than hurt, Eugene Seyler, because it gave them time to determine that a potential attempted deliberate homicide charge was not appropriate in the incident.
District Court Judge James Manley will consider Seyler’s motion to dismiss felony counts of aggravated assault and assault on a peace officer at a hearing on Friday.
In the meantime, Seyler’s arraignment Wednesday – 26 days after his initial appearance in Justice Court on May 23 – was continued to next week, dependent on the outcome of Friday’s hearing.
Seyler had been taken into custody on a public nuisance charge on May 22, and was being held at the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribal Detention Center in Pablo when prosecutors say he attacked jailer Monty Nelson.
Nelson had observed Seyler tampering with a television in his cell, court documents say, and had removed the TV. When Seyler allegedly began slamming his body into the cell door, Nelson opened the door and “the defendant unexpectedly rushed the officer and began a vicious attack upon the officer,” papers filed by Deputy County Attorney Jessica Cole-Hodgkinson say.
“Officer Nelson believed that the defendant was going to kill him,” the documents continue. “Officer Nelson was unable to fight the defendant off by himself. He was, however, able to get the cell keys off his belt and crawl to a nearby cell where Steve Morigeau was housed.”
Morigeau was able to get the keys from Nelson, let himself out of his cell, pull Seyler off the officer and shove Seyler into Morigeau’s now-empty cell and lock the door, halting the attack.
The alleged attack was captured on the detention center’s security cameras.
At the time, Lake County Undersheriff Dan Yonkin said the other inmate had probably prevented Nelson from sustaining more serious injuries.
The state was unable to obtain Nelson’s medical records until June 3 because the custodian of records at the hospital was unavailable until then, Cole-Hodgkinson said in her response to Seyler’s motion to dismiss.
“The medical records showed that while Officer Nelson may have been reasonably in fear for his life, and he sustained some serious and visually dramatic injuries, he did not suffer serious bodily injury,” Cole-Hodgkinson wrote. “The inquiry into the seriousness of the officer’s injuries was important in determining the appropriate charge(s) in this matter.”
June 3 is also when Seyler’s attorney, public defender Ashley Morigeau, filed a motion to dismiss the charges in Justice Court, noting Seyler had already been held in the Lake County Jail for 11 days without being arraigned on any charges.
The state did not respond to the Justice Court motion, attorney Morigeau said, and waited one more week to move for leave to file an information in District Court on June 10.
From that affidavit, she wrote, “It appears the only thing the State obtained after May 23 was the alleged victim’s medical records. However, on page three … the State indicates that the alleged victim met with Lake County Sheriff’s Office Detective Rick Lenz (but the date is not specified). If the State were able to interview the alleged victim, it is unlikely the State needed the alleged victim’s medical records to determine his medical condition.”
Cole-Hodgkinson called Seyler’s assertion that Seyler remained in jail for 18 days with no progress being made on his case “disingenuous at best” in her response.
The investigation was continuing, she said, and “if nothing progressed on the defendant’s end of things, then that must be laid at the feet of the defendant’s counsel.”
Seyler’s attorney did not request discovery in the matter until Monday, Cole-Hodgkinson said in documents filed Tuesday, and “neither has his counsel brought forth any request to have the amount of his bond reduced, nor has his counsel filed any request or demand for a review of probable cause.”
Cole-Hodgkinson indicated in her filing that the decision on whether to charge Seyler with attempted deliberate homicide was complicated by the violence visible in the video of the alleged attack, the serious nature of the initial appearance of Nelson’s injuries, and the fact that Seyler had been charged with attempted deliberate homicide a few months earlier.
Those charges, in which Seyler allegedly stabbed a neighbor repeatedly, were dismissed pending further investigation after a question of self-defense was raised.
“By statute, the police are obliged to explore that possibility as part of their investigation,” Cole-Hodgkinson wrote. “That investigation remains ongoing and is complicated by the officers’ inability to locate several witnesses for statements.”
Seyler was also charged In Idaho with aggravated assault in 1995, and domestic violence in 2010, and has numerous citations for failure to appear and contempt of court.
Given “an apparent propensity for violence, a history of failure to appear and strong ties to another state, dismissing the charges pending further investigation simply was not a reasonable option in this case,” Cole-Hodgkinson said.
Seyler continues to be held in the Lake County Detention Center with bail set at $150,000.