Suspects cleared of felony charges

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SANDPOINT — A bizarre episode in which two young Bonner County men were accused of attacking a person they believed was preying on underage boys snapped into sharper focus on Friday thanks to video evidence captured by an action sports camera.

Hunter Michael Donahoe was charged with attempted first-degree murder, kidnapping, two counts of aggravated assault, reckless driving and battery in connection with the Sept. 29 confrontation that began at the Westmond Store, spilled out onto U.S. Highway 95 and ended in a collision that totaled two vehicles. Cody James Walker faced charges of aggravated assault, kidnapping and reckless driving and battery in connection with the incident.

Donahoe and Walker, both 20, were accused of attacking a man from British Columbia who responded to a social media post Walker put up offering to sell snowmobiling gear. However, the would-be buyer inquired if Walker would be willing to pose for photos in his underwear, according to court documents.

Walker allegedly claimed that he was underage, but the Canadian was undeterred, a probable cause affidavit said.

The alleged victim said he was attacked and restrained by Walker and Donahoe when they met at the store, but he managed to break free and flee in his pickup, according to the police affidavit. The alleged said he was chased and rammed several times during the chase, which ended when Donahoe’s truck slammed into his. The alleged victim further stated that he was menaced with firearms after the crash.

However, a member of the duo’s entourage documented the run-up to the confrontation and its conclusion with a GoPro video camera.

“The GoPro video made it clear that the crash was an accident, that guns were never pointed although they were present, and that this was really just something that started off as probably a good idea that was handled very badly and ended up very badly,” Bonner County Senior Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Dan Rodriguez said during a plea and sentencing hearing in Bonner County Magistrate Court.

As a result of the video, the state moved to dismiss the felony charges and the defendants agreed to plead guilty to the misdemeanor offenses of reckless driving and battery.

Rodriguez said Walker attempted to loop law enforcement into the sting operation.

“It became clear to the prosecution that at least initially — before things went south — Mr. Walker and Mr. Donahoe were actually just trying to apprehend this guy to turn him over to law enforcement,” Rodriguez said, who described the operation as an “extraordinarily bad idea.”

Walker’s defense counsel, Sandpoint attorney Rex Finney, said the original plan was much sparser.

“His main goal was just to get a picture of the man and post this picture to Facebook so everybody could see who he was and it just got carried away,” Finney said.

Donahoe’s counsel, Sandpoint attorney Jeremy Featherston said his client admitted putting his hands on the man, but denied throwing any punches.

“There was some pushing and shoving,” said Featherston.

Judge Tera Harden imposed consecutive 90-day jail sentences in both men’s cases. In Walker’s case, 78 days were suspended and he was credited with two days in custody, leaving 10 days to serve at the discretion of his probation officer. In Donahoe’s case, 77 days were suspended and he was credit with three days in custody, leaving 10 days of discretionary time.

Both men were also ordered to perform 100 hours of community service, some of which will be served at the LillyBrooke Family Justice Center, which serves victims of violence and abuse.

Both were granted withheld judgments, which means their convictions can be stricken upon successful completion of one year of probation.

Both were also asked by Harden what lessons they learned as a result of the incident.

“What I should have done — that’s the biggest thing that I learned — what I should have done,” said Walker.

“Keep my nose out of people’s business,” Donahoe said.

Keith Kinnaird can be reached by email at kkinnaird@bonnercountydailybee.com and follow him on Twitter @KeithDailyBee.

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