A six-year legal battle has ended with the family of convicted game-warden killer and outlaw trapper Claude Dallas getting back all the guns and other personal property Owyhee County has been holding since 1982.
Third District Judge Jim Doolittle on Monday rejected the county's pursuit of some 21 firearms, assorted hunting knives and enough bullets to equip a small army as "contraband."Owyhee County Prosecutor Lawrence Wasden and Sheriff Tim Net-tleton wanted to sell off the weapons at a public auction to help offset a costly murder trial and investigation.
Doolittle put that notion to rest, finding that "none of the property" in dispute was in Dallas' possession or control at the time of his arrest, "either actually or constructively."
In his six-page order, the judge chastised Wasden for waiting so long to seek confiscation of the goods.
"The state's motion to forfeit the defendant's property was filed five years, three months and four days after the defendant was convicted; no valid reason for the delay exists," Doolittle wrote.
Besides turning down the county's request, the judge denied a civil claim filed by Boise defense attorney Bill Mauk, who said Dallas still owes his law firm roughly $30,000 in unpaid legal fees. Doolittle held that the lien "does not apply to this forfeiture proceeding."
"Justice is served," Dallas' attorney, Renae Hoff of Caldwell, said of the ruling. "I see it as a decision that makes legal and common sense. The two don't often go together, but in this case, they did.
"As I've said all along, the properties should never have been seized."
Hoff said she intends to make arrangements this week to release the Dallas goods from their prolonged bondage in Murphy. The items were seized by authorities during seven searches in Idaho and Nevada over a 16-month period.
"My immediate goal is to get it out of Nettleton's hands," she said.
The sheriff, informed of the judge's order late Monday, seemed momentarily stunned.