Christopher Pentico's trespass charge will be dismissed after he completes 30 days of probation, Magistrate Judge Kevin Swain decided Monday. Swain denied prosecutors' request that Pentico serve jail time and pay a fine. Pentico was convicted of trespass after he visited Idaho Gov. Butch Otter's office, but Swain said Pentico is clearly not a threat, and does not need to spend any more time being banned from state office buildings.
Mountain Home Rep. Pete Neilsen told the court that Pentico is persistent but polite, which makes him no different from any other citizens who come to the Statehouse or other government offices. Neilsen said state offices should “have a big welcome mat” and the state should not find reasons to ban people.
Several lawmakers are now discussing ways to change the state statute to prevent Idaho's trespass law from being applied to public property, as it was in this case. That change will have to wait until the next legislative session, but there's general agreement that there's a way to amend the trespass statute so that it provides proper protection of state officials and employees, grants the public access to their elected officials and provides due process for citizens considered unruly or dangerous.
Several people called the Idaho Freedom Foundation today complaining that they too had been barred from state and local government offices merely for asking questions, not for being disruptive or belligerent.
On March 25, 2008, two Capitol security officers blocked Pentico's entry to the Legislative Annex and told Pentico not to enter the annex, the third and fourth floors of the Borah Post Office (the temporary home of the governor's suite of offices), and the state Department of Education. The ban was to last a full year.
Pentico went to Otter's office April 2, 2008 to deliver a protest letter and leave, and that's when he was cited with trespass.
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