Sentencing and preliminary hearing in Potter County court Monday
Although a nearly full docket awaited Judge John Brown at Potter County Court on Monday, only two cases involved felony charges.
Cory Eidam, 34, of Gettysburg appeared before the court for sentencing. In April he entered a guilty plea to felony charges of simple assault on a law enforcement officer. The charges are a Class Six felony which carry a maximum penalty of two years in the state penitentiary and a fine of $4,000. Other charges of aggravated assault and misdemeanor charges of reckless driving and intentional damage to property were dropped.
Prior to the sentencing, Eidam’s attorney, David Siebrasse, called Keith Eidam as a witness on behalf of his client. The witness, who is the defendant’s father, told the court they have farmed together for approximately the past 16 years. He described his son as a reliable, good worker and valuable to the family farming operation. He told the court they farm and hay approximately 6,000 acres together and any jail time incurred by Cory would have a negative impact on their operation, especially with harvest approaching. He also told the court that he did not perceive his son to be a threat to anybody and that he believed that any rules given by the judge would be followed.
The charge alleged that Cory, while driving a semi truck, crossed approximately three feet into the lane of the oncoming Game, Fish and Parks vehicle driven by Conservation Officer Brad Saltsman, forcing Saltsman to move to the shoulder to avoid a collision.
While on the witness stand, Keith told the court that Cory had not told him about the offense and he first learned about it from the Potter County Sheriff. “He is a very private person,” is how he described his son.
Potter County State’s Attorney Craig Smith talked about the serious nature of the case and asked for a sentence that included jail time and restitution. He also asked that work release not be granted.
Siebrasse said that his client, “is coming to you with great remorse and shame,” and said that any past offenses had been misdemeanors. Siebrasse went on to explain that if his client truly intended to hurt Saltsman, he would have stayed in the lane, but he chose not to, and expressed his remorse and asked for a suspended imposition of sentence.
At that point, Eidam turned toward the courtroom and address Saltsman, saying he was sorry and wished he could “take it back.”
Judge John Brown asked Eidam what prompted him to engage in this type of activity. The response was that he was “just playing around” and meant “no harm by it,” adding that it “wasn’t bumper to bumper.”
The judge said that a large semi coming toward a passenger vehicle would be frightening and could have resulted in injury. He did withhold the finding of guilt and the sentence of the court was to grant a suspended imposition if the conditions of the court were completed.
Eidam was sentenced to three years probation, with no violations during that time. All weapons and firearms were to be turned into the county sheriff, and a Moral Recognition Therapy (MRT) corrective thinking class must be completed. He is to comply with all the restrictions that come with probation, including the no alcohol or drug rule, random alcohol/drug testing, no entering establishments that primarily serve alcohol, pay full restitution for jail time and damage to Game, Fish and Parks vehicle, and to provide a written apology to the Officer Saltsman. In addition he was sentenced to 30 days in jail to be served in blocks of 10 days at a time, and work release for eight hours daily would be granted. He was fined $2,000 plus $104 in court costs. The jail time must be completed by Nov. 1 as part of the suspended imposition. He was told to report to jail immediately.
A preliminary hearing was held in the case involving Richard Seldal, 41, of Hoven, who was charged with intentional damage to property. The charge is a Class Four felony carrying a maximum penalty of 10 years in the state penitentiary and a $20,000 fine. He is also charged with careless driving, exhibition driving, and no drivers license, each a Class Two misdemeanor carrying a maximum penalty of 30 days in jail and a $500 fine. The hearing was only for the felony charge. The charges stem from an incident in March that alleged Seldal used his vehicle to spin the tires, which flung rocks that hit a house, broke windows, and caused damage in excess of $1,000.
The witnesses in the hearing were sequestered at the request of Seldal’s attorney, Joan Powell. Potter County State’s Attorney Craig Smith called the first witness for the prosecution, who was Potter County Sheriff Curt Hamburger.
During the sheriff’s testimony, the court learned that he was called about property damage to the Brent Rausch residence in rural Hoven where he observed tire tracks around the driveway, scattered rocks, and broken windows. Numerous photos were taken by the sheriff and submitted into evidence, and the sheriff described the damage in more detail. He also had photographs of nails found in the driveway, which he said were similar to nails he observed in a pickup truck belonging to Seldal.
In cross examination, Powell pointed out differences in the nails in the photos, and it was revealed that physical samples of nails were collected from the Rausch driveway, but none were collected from the pickup. According to the sheriff, pictures and measurements were taken of the tire impressions, which he said measured close to the same tires on the Seldal vehicle. Sheriff Hamburger said a neighbor reported hearing a loud vehicle in the area during the time frame of the alleged incident, but did not see Seldal or his vehicle.
The prosecution then called Samantha Mayes of Hoven to the stand. She testified that she and her brother, Willie Mayes, were in Seldal’s pickup on the night in question. She said they had consumed alcohol and went to Onaka to see if the bar was open. According to Mayes, when they figured out the bar was closed, Seldal, who was driving, “spun a cookie” which spread gravel. They ended up south and west of Hoven on a gravel road, and she said they turned into a yard where Seldal “spun the tires” and she could hear gravel hit the pickup. She said she asked whose house they were at, and he said it belonged to Rausch, and that he had been “waiting to do that for a long time” and he was “sick of Brent messing with his business.”
Cross examination from the defense determined that alcohol had been consumed, raising questions about recollection of the event’s details.
Brent Rausch was called to the stand. He told the court that he was gone for part of the weekend and when he returned to the home he was renting from his parents in rural Hoven, the cement pad in front of the house was covered with rocks, and rocks were on the roof of the garage and in the gutters, windows were broken, and the damage was reported to his insurance company in excess of $1,000. He also revealed that he was not there at the time of the vandalism, and that Seldal had been at the house two or three times before, to “pick up stuff” with Rausch’s ex-wife.
Powell asked Rausch what kind of pickups come in and out of his place. It was reported there were some that could be half ton, four door pickups, which could match the tire impressions found at the scene.
Willie Mayes was called to the stand by Powell. He testified that he had been consuming alcohol and remembered little about the evening in question, and had no recollection of being at the Rausch residence.
Judge Brown set arraignment for July 9, at which time a plea will be entered by Seldal.