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Guilty plea entered in Elmira robbery case

by KEITH KINNAIRD/Hagadone News Network
| April 10, 2014 9:00 PM

SANDPOINT - A Kootenai man implicated in a home-invasion robbery in Elmira last month pleaded guilty Monday to an amended charge of being an after-the-fact accessory to the crime.

Jonathan Lee Comstock faces as many as five years in prison, although the state is recommending an undisclosed period of incarceration at the Bonner County Jail and a suspended prison term, according to a plea agreement in the case.

Public Defender Margaret Williams remains free to recommend a lesser sentence.

Neither recommendation, however, will be binding upon the court when Comstock is sentenced in 1st District Court on June 3. He was released on his own recognizance after entering the plea and is ordered to undergo drug testing as a condition of release, court records show.

Comstock, 22, was originally charged with robbery in connection with the March 10 attack, in which a 57-year-old man was bound, gagged, blindfolded and doused with gasoline. He was also shot in the face by one of his alleged assailants, but was only grazed.

In exchange for a plea, the robbery charge was downgraded and a charge of resisting arrest, which stemmed from an 11-hour standoff in Sandpoint after the alleged attack, was dismissed. A marijuana possession charge that predated the incident was dismissed, although Comstock pleaded guilty to an associated charge of possession of drug paraphernalia.

The attack's alleged ringleader, Joseph Vencil Kluck Jr., pleaded not guilty during his arraignment on Monday, setting the stage for a four- to five-day trial in June. Kluck was bound over to stand trial on charges of attempted murder for allegedly insisting that an accomplice, Joseph Eugene Cleveland, shoot the victim. Kluck is further charged with second-degree kidnapping.

Kluck, also 22, remains jailed while awaiting trial.

Cleveland, 19, is charged with attempted murder and second-degree kidnapping. He also remains jailed and is set to be arraigned April 21.

The alleged victim testified at a preliminary hearing that his assailants appear to have been targeting a former roommate to steal drugs and money, but the roommate no longer lived at the Elmira address.

Comstock drove Kluck and Cleveland to the home, but otherwise did not participate in the crime. He testified at the preliminary hearing that he was unaware a robbery was going to be committed.