Jury acquits Shanahan of battery
Hagadone News Network | December 23, 2010 8:00 PM
SANDPOINT - A Bonner County jury acquitted a former East Hope councilman accused of punching the town's 78-year-old mayor in the chest.
The jury of four women and two men found Daniel Burton Shanahan innocent of a misdemeanor battery charge after about two hours of deliberation. The verdict followed a two-day trial in the magistrate division of 1st District Court.
Shanahan, 35, was charged with striking Mayor Jacob Both in the chest with a clenched fist outside City Hall on July 12. A half-dozen other city officials witnessed the altercation and there was photographic evidence of bruising to Both's chest.
"This picture does not agree with the defendant's version of what went on that day, but it does agree with what the six witnesses saw," special prosecutor David Robins said during his closing arguments.
Witnesses said Shanahan stormed out of City Hall after reaching an impasse with officials over the placement of a newspaper delivery tube on private property he was leasing. City officials maintained the delivery tube was on public right of way.
Shanahan reportedly slammed the door on his way out of the building and Both followed him outside to admonish him for the outburst. Shanahan testified that Both charged toward him and grabbed him below the arms, prompting Shanahan to slap down Both's hands and push him away.
Both testified that Shanahan became enraged at being admonished, advanced on him and delivered the blow.
Shanahan told jurors he feared for his safety when Both allegedly approached him. But under cross-examination, Robins challenged the notion of self-defense by pointing out that Shanahan was a fit, former U.S. Army Ranger who was half the age of Both.
"A 70-year-old man with a bad back got the jump on you?" Robins asked.
The defense put up its own photographic evidence of finger impressions on Shanahan's sides, but Robins dismissed the wounds as either self-inflicted or the result of Shanahan running into Both.
The altercation followed months of discord between Shanahan and city officials, whom Shanahan had accused of corruption, voter fraud, budget and payroll improprieties, and harassment. Shanahan ultimately resigned his position amid the turmoil.
"He made the mistake of getting on the City Council. He broke up the existing club," said Shanahan's defense counsel, Michael Palmer.
Palmer doubted there was a "grand conspiracy" by state's witnesses to railroad Shanahan, but emphasized that they were all friends who shared a dislike for his client.
"Folks, these are not neutral bystanders," Palmer said during his closing argument. "These are not disinterested people. These are people who have an ax to grind."
Palmer further argued that the witnesses did not have an entirely clear vantage point from where they were standing or sitting inside City Hall and that Shanahan was acting in self-defense.
"Even if he did hit him, so what? He had every right to," said Palmer.