Idaho State Patrol officer put on leave following criticism by Idaho Supreme Court

This story, written by Mitch Coffman and originally posted to IdahoReporter.com, was shared by a Copblocker who stated this “was outrageous misconduct. Idaho State Patrol investigated this which they should have outside investigation, instead they promoted RICE and now all cases are tainted.”

An Idaho state police officer has been put on administrative leave as a result of a ruling May 27 by the Idaho Supreme Court that called into question his honesty during testimony on a “road rage” case in north Idaho.

On Tuesday afternoon the Idaho State Police (ISP) said the officer, Cpl. Fred Rice, is on paid leave as the matter is investigated. Rice is an accident reconstruction specialist with ISP.

ISP said, “With the May 27th announcement of the Idaho Supreme Court’s decision in State of Idaho v. Jonathan W. Ellington, the Idaho State Police is fully aware of the significant issues involved with this case. As is standard procedure, the ISP has started an Administrative Investigation into the issues identified by the Idaho Supreme Court. The ISP regards this as a serious matter and fully intends to complete a thorough investigation. The involved employee has been placed on administrative leave with pay, and since this investigation involves a current employee in a personnel matter, the ISP will not be able comment further.”

Rice’s annual salary is $66,064.

The Idaho Supreme Court threw out the second-degree murder conviction of Ellington, granting his request for a new trial. Justices cited several mistakes in the case, including misconduct by the Kootenai County prosecutor as well as inconsistencies with Rice’s testimony. Rice was a key witness for the prosecution. During his testimony, the court found Rice conflicted his own accident reconstruction from a previous case, including claiming that the defense’s argument about reaction time as an accident is occurring wasn’t accurate because “there is no average perception time in the world,” he said.

In its appeal request, the defense said Rice had testified just the opposite in another case. Also among the conflicting statements from Rice, said the court, was his argument that debris at the crash scene could not be used to determine the point of impact. The defense argued that the debris field showed Ellington had been in the correct lane at the time of the accident, which resulted in a death.

The justices said in a 32-page ruling that “a conviction obtained by the knowing use of perjured testimony is fundamentally unfair.” The justices concluded that Ellington’s “conviction and sentence are vacated, and his case is remanded to the district court for a new trial.”

Ellington was convicted of second-degree murder and two counts of aggravated battery stemming from an incident on New Year’s Day 2006 in Kootenai County for running over Vonette Lee Larsen during a “road rage” incident. According to Jovon Larsen, one of Vonette Larsen’s two daughters, Ellington had been tailing them (daughters) earlier in the day, cutting them off, and even exiting his vehicle, yelling at them, and punching their car window. They followed Ellington because he didn’t have any license plates.

The two daughters said they had stopped for a time to wait for a sheriff’s deputy to arrive. In the meantime their parents, Joel and Vonette, arrived. They took off to look for Ellington. Then, according the Larsens, that’s when things turned deadly. Ellington drove his vehicle tire onto the hood of Jovon’s car. Vonette and her husband, Joel, got out to confront Ellington. According to Joel, Ellington then drove toward Vonette and hit her. She died of massive head trauma.

The defense said Ellington was attempting to flee the scene because Joel Larsen had fired a gun at his vehicle and in trying to leave, he struck Mrs. Larsen, resulting in her death.

Idaho State Patrol
700 S. Stratford Drive
Meridian, ID 83642
208.884.7000

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