Teen convicted in attack put on probation

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SANDPOINT — A California teen who played a role in a vicious attack on a Hope woman was released on probation on Thursday.

Marshall Owens Dittrich pleaded guilty to battery with intent to commit robbery following the 2011 attack on Vera Gadman. First District Judge Steve Verby ordered Dittrich to serve up to 10 years in prison, but retained jurisdiction over the defendant.

When jurisdiction is retained, also known as a rider, a defendant serves up to a year in a medium security prison before a decision is made to impose the sentence or release them on probation.

By all accounts, Dittrich’s rider was uneventful and productive. The Idaho Department of Correction recommended Dittrich be put on probation, as did his defense counsel, Coeur d’Alene attorney Michael G. Palmer.

The state argued against retained jurisdiction and Chief Deputy Prosecutor Shane Greenbank reiterated that position due to the egregious nature of the crime. In his opinion, Greenbank said a rider would “further victimize” Gadman.

Gadman encountered Dittrich and Owens as they hitchhiked along Highway 200 near Clark Fork and offered to give them a ride to a campsite. Dittrich and Martin, 17, are accused of attempting to rob Gadman of her vehicle by unleashing a sustained assault in which she was choked, repeatedly hit over the head with a bottle until it shattered and pelted with rocks.

Gadman, 66 at the time of the attack, managed to escape from her assailants. Dittrich and Martin, who were 17 at the time, were arrested and prosecuted as adults.

Martin, of Denver, was portrayed in court as the primary aggressor and was sentenced to up to 15 years in state prison. Dittrich’s roll in the attack was regarded as comparatively limited, resulting in a two-and-a-half-years to 10-year sentence with retained jurisdiction.

Gadman has stated in court that she believes Dittrich is an adept manipulator and coerced Martin into initiating the attack.

Palmer emphasized on Thursday that Dittrich is remorseful from his involvement.

“I’m very sorry for what I did,” Dittrich said during his allocution. “Seeing what I’ve done to someone else ... it’s changed me a lot.”

Dittrich obtained the equivalent of a high school diploma while incarcerated and intends to relocate back to Danville, Calif., to obtain a job and begin taking college-level courses in animation and graphic design.

First District Judge Barbara Buchanan called Dittrich’s crime “heinous,” and one which jangled the nerves of a community where helping strangers is not uncommon.

“This crime was inexcusable and unforgivable,” said Buchanan.

However, she noted that Dittrich did “exceptionally well” on his rider and the Idaho Department of Correction recommended he be placed on probation.

Buchanan adopted the recommendation and imposed seven years of probation.

All told, Dittrich spent 18 months behind bars while his case was being adjudicated. He and Martin have also been ordered to pay $18,393 in restitution.

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