Woman accused of battering city official

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SANDPOINT — A Sandpoint woman was arraigned Friday for allegedly battering a city official while researching her legal claims for a wrongful arrest last year.

Judge Barbara Buchanan entered a not guilty plea on Rita Nancy Hutchens’ behalf, clearing the way for a trial in Bonner County Magistrate Court.

Hutchens, according to a sheriff detective’s probable cause affidavit, was upset that a deputy city clerk monitored her from several feet away while she reviewed public records and was prevented from leaving City Hall with the documents.

Hutchens allegedly threw an ink pen down and it ended up hitting Deputy Clerk Melissa Ward in the arm. The alleged incident took place on Aug. 12.

Hutchens argues there is no evidence that such an incident even took place and Ward’s statements to the deputy were hearsay.

“There is no sworn affidavit from an injured party, complainant or witness filed with the court,” Hutchens said in a pending motion to dismiss.

Hutchens further argues that the citation and attendant court documents she received were rife with errors, including an illegible witness signature, a misspelling of her surname and other defects.

Hutchens, 57, filed a $250,000 claim for damages against the city for assault, battery and false arrest in 2011.

At the time of her arrest, Hutchens was being investigated by Sandpoint Police for allegedly harassing a tenant while an eviction proceeding was pending.

While Officer Theresa Heberer was taking the tenant’s statement, Hutchens drove by in her car, prompting Heberer to follow Hutchens to her home in an attempt to contact her, according to the police report.

Hutchens declined to speak with the officer and said in the claim that she was forcibly taken to the ground, which injured her elbow.

Hutchens was charged with obstructing a police officer, but her public defender, Margaret Williams, successfully argued that her client’s invocation of her Fifth Amendment right does not amount to obstruction.

Buchanan agreed and the case was thrown out prior to trial, court records show.

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