Settlement possible in Turning Winds lawsuit

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SANDPOINT - A settlement could be reached in a lawsuit accusing Bonner County officials of maliciously prosecuting the operators of a former boarding school in Cocolalla.

A hearing on a defense motion seeking summary judgment in the suit was canceled last month and an attorney representing the plaintiffs advised the court the matter could be resolved without going to trial.

The plaintiffs' counsel, Leander L. James, told a judge in an e-mail that the hearing was being postponed so additional discovery and depositions could be conducted.

“I will also report that all counsels and all parties have been diligently working toward finding common ground that may form the basis for a resolution of this case,” James said in the Feb. 15 e-mail.

The former school's operators - John William Baisden Sr., John William Baisden Jr., and Carl Spencer Baisden - sued the county last year after misdemeanor criminal charges against them were dismissed. The trio was accused of child endangerment for allegedly beating a 17-year-old student who busted through a fence and fled the school in March 2005.

John Baisden Sr., 58, picked up the teen as he hitchhiked on U.S. Highway 95 and rendezvoused with his sons at the Westmond Store, according to court documents. The trio was accused of battering the teen, although the Baisdens countered that the student became combative and attacked them.

The criminal cases were later dismissed after the alleged victim's parents decided that the proceedings would be too counterproductive to their son's efforts to gain stability in his life, court records indicate.

The Baisdens filed a claim seeking $8 million in damages and subsequently filed suit claiming sheriff's officials conducted a biased investigation and irreparably harmed their reputations.

The Baisdens closed the Turning Winds school following the fiasco and relocated to western Montana, records show.

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