Court adopts plea agreement in lewd conduct case

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SANDPOINT — A Bonner County man accused of lewd conduct was ordered to serve 19 days in jail after pleading guilty to a reduced charge, 1st District Court records show.

Judge Barbara Buchanan ordered Michael Douglas White to serve a 180-day sentence on Tuesday, but suspended 160 days of the term and gave him credit for one day of pretrial incarceration. White was also placed on unsupervised probation for two years, according to court documents.

White, 53, was charged in 2016 with fondling a 12-year-old girl’s breasts and genitalia during a five-month period in 2015, according to a criminal complaint. He was further charged with exposing the girl to pornography.

White was ultimately charged with one count of lewd conduct and two counts of sexual abuse of a minor. The case was vigorously defended, court records show.

Bonner County Prosecutor Louis Marshall argued at a preliminary hearing last fall that White targeted the alleged victim under the incorrect belief that she would be less likely to disclose the abuse due to her developmental delay, which was thought to be the result of severe neglect by her biological mother, according to a hearing transcript. Defense counsel Anne Taylor maintained that there was no credible evidence in the case and that the charges were a vengeful fabrication of the woman who is now the child’s mother.

Judge Debra Heise ruled there was sufficient evidence to warrant a trial on the charges, court records show.

Marshall advised the court that the alleged victim’s ability to withstand a rigorous trial factored into plea negotiations, court documents indicate. Judge Barbara Buchanan advised the state and the defense that the court would adhere to a binding plea agreement in the case.

White entered an Alford plea to a misdemeanor charge of injury to a child. Under such a plea, White admits no wrongdoing but concedes he could be convicted of the offenses if the case went to trial.

Another of White’s attorneys, Michael G. Palmer, told the court that his client had a solid defense, but admitted that there was a chance jurors might not see it that way.

White had no remarks for the court before he was sentenced, court records indicate.

Keith Kinnaird can be reached by phone at 208-263-9534, by email at kkinnaird@bonnercountydailybee.com and follow him on Twitter @KeithDailyBee.

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