The following Guest Opinion was submitted to the Idaho Statesman in response to an editorial written by Kevin Richert. I hope you will take the time to read the two Idaho Supreme Court decisions about which I commented on my Facebook page. You can find them at the following links: Kessler Decision 1 and Kessler Decision 2. The killing – which if you will read closely you will see really was an assassination – of Bobbie Kessler by five ISP troopers has been completely misrepresented by the newspaper, which should come as no surprise to anyone.
In 1992, Payette County Reserve Deputy Bobbie Kessler was accused of – but never tried for — some serious crimes. He never had the chance to stand trial for a determination of his guilt or innocence.
Instead, Bobbie Kessler was killed by five Idaho State Police troopers in a plan so ill-conceived that “a recognized police expert in more than 400 cases,” testified that, “the plan for taking Bobbie into custody was so tactically flawed that the adverse outcome was more probable than not.”
I referred to the event as an “assassination” on my personal Facebook page. Just like the Idaho Statesman does, I used strong words to capture people’s attention, hoping they would read the ensuing Idaho Supreme Court decisions and judge for themselves. If you do so, you will likely agree it is an apt description.
Instead of encouraging readers to review the cases and judge for themselves, the Idaho Statesman’s Kevin Richert whitewashed the role of current Ada County Commissioner and then ISP Officer Dave Case in the killing of Deputy Kessler.
Case was one of five officers who concocted the plan to arrest Kessler that was destined to end badly. These officers had Kessler called to duty – when he was 100 percent certain to be armed – and trapped him like a rat by locking the door of the Payette County Courthouse behind him. They wore camouflage gear, instead of uniforms, held up a submachine gun, and told him he was under arrest.
The Statesman reports that Case did not draw his weapon, yet, Case and another officer were armed with police-strength pepper spray. They initiated the physical altercation with Kessler, dousing him with a can-and-a-half of “Cap-stun,” enough, according to a quote from the Supreme Court decisions, to “bring God down.”
Bobbie was a Vietnam combat vet who “had military experience as a member of the special forces.” Not surprisingly, he fought back, but Bobbie Kessler never once fired his gun. Nonetheless, once the clash started, Kessler was shot multiple times, until he lay dead on the cold hard floor of the old Payette County Courthouse.
Deputy Kessler’s widow sued Payette County, the State of Idaho and the ISP officers for wrongful death. Jim Jones, now on the Idaho Supreme Court, represented Mrs. Kessler.
Although Mrs. Kessler’s claims were initially dismissed by the trial court, the 1996-97 Idaho Supreme Court concluded that the trial court incorrectly dismissed “claims for negligent planning and execution of the arrest, and for negligent supervision,” and “civil rights claims against state law enforcement officers as individuals.” Mrs. Kessler was awarded costs.
The importance and implications of this decision should not be downplayed. Again, contrary to the Statesman’s reporting, the Idaho Supreme Court found that the wrongful death lawsuit against the officers AS INDIVIDUALS should NOT have been dismissed.
The case went back to trial, at which time a settlement was reached. THE FIVE OFFICERS INVOLVED WERE NEVER CLEARED IN THE WRONGFUL DEATH CASE.
Statesman editor Kevin Richert excused Dave Case’s involvement and actions without providing the rest of the story. I wonder if Richert even read the Supreme Court decisions before weighing in.
For bringing this 19-year-old homicide involving Ada County’s newest commissioner to your attention, I was compared by Richert to Brent Coles, John McGee, John Bujak and Larry Craig – all four of whom have faced serious criminal charges. I haven’t been charged with, or committed, any crimes.
Dave Case has repeatedly hurled blatantly false accusations of legal violations at my Board and me; yet, Case enjoys immunity from Statesman criticism. Statesman readers should be outraged by the paper’s blatant bias.