A 38-year-old former Blaine County man pleaded not guilty Monday to a felony charge of “custodial interference” for allegedly illegally keeping his 2-year-old daughter away from the girl’s mother and taking the child to Washington state.
Jason Robert Spencer, who court records state now lives in Washington, entered his plea at arraignment before Blaine County 5th District Court Judge Robert J. Elgee, who advised Spencer that the crime of felony child custodial interference is punishable in Idaho by up to five years in prison.
Elgee scheduled a two-day jury trial to begin on Sept. 17.
Spencer, who is free on $15,000 bond, is represented by Ketchum attorney Stephen Thompson.
The case against Spencer stems from a custody dispute between him and the child’s mother, 33-year-old Sandee Rae Byington, of Hailey.
Hailey police Lt. Steve England, who investigated the case with the assistance of Blaine County Prosecuting Attorney Jim Thomas, wrote in a probable-cause affidavit that Spencer is accused of failing to return the child from visitation in early January and instead taking the child to Washington. England wrote through telephone conversations with Spencer that Spencer said he was not going to return the child to her mother.
A warrant for his arrest was issued. He was taken into custody near Spokane, Wash., in mid-February and the child was returned to Byington.
According to court records, Spencer was charged with the crime even though the girl’s mother does not have a court ruling establishing her as the legal custodian. England wrote in his affidavit that instead Byington told him there was only a verbal agreement regarding “joint custody” between her and Spencer.
Also according to court records, Byington filed for legal custody in late January. A hearing on the matter is scheduled for May 15 before Blaine County Magistrate Court Judge R. Ted Israel.