Judge orders evaulation in battery case

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SANDPOINT — An eccentric quilt artist accused of battering a public official was ordered Wednesday to undergo a mental health evaluation.

Rita Nancy Hutchens declined to address the state’s motion during the hearing and declared that she would not submit to an evaluation while leaving the courtroom.

Hutchens’ refusal to heed the court’s order could lead to contempt proceedings and possible arrest.

Hutchens, 57, is accused of angrily throwing an ink pen at a deputy city clerk for the city of Sandpoint last August. Hutchens, a probable cause affidavit alleges, became volatile after being prevented from taking public records from City Hall. She also objected to being monitored from afar while she looked over the records.

Bonner County Chief Deputy Prosecutor Shane Greenbank moved for Hutchens to be evaluated late last year due to erratic behavior and bizarre pro se court filings which challenge everything from the court’s jurisdiction to her identity as presented on documents filed by the state.

Greenbank argued that Hutchens “displays a high degree of confusion about criminal process and criminal procedures.” Greenbank added that Hutchens has been disruptive in court, returns discovery documents sent to her and put her hands on him when he attempted to serve a hearing notice.

“She even struck me with it, hit me in the head with it,” Greenbank said, referring to the hearing notice.

Hutchens declined to argue against the state’s motion or her own motion calling for the misdemeanor case against her to be dismissed.

“The woman that’s been charged is not in the audience,” Hutchens said from the small courtroom’s gallery, flanked by a handful of supporters.

Hutchens also repeatedly and without explanation asked Greenbank to touch or tap her shoulder, something Bonner County Magistrate Court Judge Debra Heise declined to allow.

Under Idaho law, a person can be charged with misdemeanor battery for any unwanted physical contact from another.

Hutchens continued her efforts to challenge the court’s jurisdiction in the case, but Heise repeatedly advised her that jurisdiction had long been established and ultimately granted the state’s motion for an evaluation based on her behavior during Wednesday’s hearing.

A hearing on the evaluation motion was set for late last year, but Hutchens failed to appear and a bench warrant was issued for her arrest. A Bonner County sheriff’s deputy spotted Hutchens in her home last month, but she declined to come to the door.

After repeated warnings, a probable cause affidavit said, the deputy forced open the door and arrested her. A marijuana pipe was allegedly discovered beneath a couch Hutchens was found hiding by, resulting in a paraphernalia possession charge.

Forcing open a door to arrest somebody on a misdemeanor warrant has raised eyebrows in the community and appears to have caught the court’s attention as well.

“The police conduct in the new charge is extraordinary. You should talk to a lawyer,” Heise said as Hutchens left the courtroom with her small entourage.

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