Friday, October 1, 2004

Plea bargain accepted in machete case

Hunt credited for time in jail and released

Express Staff Writer

In a surprise court hearing Thursday in Hailey, Daniel D. Hunt pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor battery charge in connection with an early morning altercation May 16 with Thomas P. Algiers, who later that morning was killed in a police standoff.

Fifth District Magistrate Judge Ted Israel accepted Hunt's plea and sentenced him to 135 days in the Blaine County Jail. Hunt was credited for time served and released from custody.

The Special Prosecutions Unit of the Attorney General's Criminal Law Division investigated and prosecuted the case at the request of Blaine County Prosecuting Attorney Jim Thomas. Deputy Attorney General Jay F. Rosenthal prosecuted the case.

According to the AG?s Office, the evidence in the case established that Hunt, 44, a former Wyoming resident, and Algiers, 46, a Ketchum resident, were camping near the Big Wood River in Ketchum. Early in the morning of May 16, Hunt and Algiers got into a physical altercation initiated by Algiers. Hunt told officers that Algiers attempted to stran-gle him and that he hit Algiers a number of times over the head with a machete in an attempt to free himself. Once Algiers released Hunt from the stranglehold, Hunt kicked Algiers in the head with his bare foot and ran to the River Run Lodge to report the incident and to get help for Algiers.

Ketchum City Police Department Officers responded to the call as well as Blaine County Sheriff's Deputies Curtis Miller and Dale Stocking. In the course of a search in the darkness of the early hours, Algiers came out of some thick brush and walked toward Deputies Miller and Stocking. Algiers was holding a knife with blades opened at each end. Although the deputies repeatedly ordered Algiers to drop the knife, Algiers continued toward the officers refusing to drop the knife and ordering them to drop their weapons. Miller shot Algiers twice. Thomas Algiers died as a result of one of the gunshots.

On Sept. 1, a Blaine County Coroner's Jury determined that Miller's actions were justified when he shot Algiers. The Coroner?s Jury found that Miller fired two shots in self-defense.

Hunt was arrested on May 20 and charged with aggravated battery and aggravated assault on Thomas Algiers. Hunt has been in the Blaine County Jail since that time.

"This is a tragic case by any definition," Attorney General Lawrence Wasden said. "After many hours of interviews and investigation, my office determined that misdemeanor battery was the appropriate and fair charge against Mr. Hunt, as well as the only charge that the state could prove beyond a reasonable doubt."

As part of a plea bargain to gain Hunt's plea, Rosenthal asked that the two felony charges that Hunt has been held on for the past four months be dropped. He said as required by Idaho Code he was unable to prove the charges for the machete wounds beyond a reasonable doubt, but that he felt he could prove the kicking.

Hunt was scheduled to stand trial in 5th District Court on Oct. 26. Members of the Algiers family said they wanted the trial to go forward to get the facts in the case out and that they are disappointed by the decision by the state to seek a plea bargain.

Israel, after some deliberation and discussion with Hunt about his lifestyle as an itinerant worker and his plans to leave the county, accepted the agreement made between Hunt's defense attorney Stephen Thompson and Rosenthal.

The maximum penalty for the misdemeanor is six months in jail and a $500 fine. The fine was waved, Hunt was given credit for the 135 days he had already spent in jail and was immediately released.

Thompson said arrangements have been made for Hunt to leave the state and that his client regrets the death of his friend Algiers and the problems the officers involved in the police shooting experienced.

Wasden said his office will release the records of the investigation on Oct. 8.

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