State appeals dismissal of charge

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SANDPOINT — The state is appealing the dismissal of a Bonner County rape case that was dismissed on technical grounds in August.

Deputy Attorney General Kenneth Jorgensen’s notice of appeal comes about a month after 1st District Judge Steve Verby dismissed the case against Gary Dean Blankenship Jr.

Blankenship, 50, was originally charged with lewd conduct with a minor in the late 1980s and mid ’90s, but Bonner County Prosecutor Louis Marshall moved to amend the charge because the statute of limitations for that offense had expired.

The charge was amended to statutory rape with a teen in 1997 and Blankenship was ordered to stand trial following a preliminary hearing in Bonner County Magistrate Court.

Once the case landed in district court, Blankenship’s defense counsel, Bryce Powell, moved to dismiss it because the statute of limitations still barred Marshall from prosecuting for that offense.

Marshall sought to overcome the timeliness issue by moving to amend the rape charge to include an allegation that the rape was forcible. The defense objected, contending that further augmenting the charge would violate Blankenship’s constitutional right to due process.

Use of force was not an element of the state’s case in pretrial proceedings and Blankenship never had a chance to contest such a claim during the preliminary hearing.

Verby ultimately ruled in an Aug. 15 written order that amending the charge a third time would prejudice Blankenship’s right to due process.

Jorgensen’s preliminary statement on appeal to the Idaho Supreme Court questions whether the district court erred when it dismissed the charge rather than allow an amendment, court records show.

In the wake of the dismissal, Blankenship filed a $10 million claim for damages alleging he was subjected to malicious prosecution which irreparably harmed his personal and professional life.

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