Prosecutor charged with battery over alleged incident at fair, under investigation for threatening phone call
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EDITOR’S NOTE: The phone recording in the video player above contains profanity. Listener discretion is advised.
BLACKFOOT — A local county prosecutor has been charged with two counts of misdemeanor battery over an incident that allegedly occurred at the Eastern Idaho State Fair.
Justin Oleson, 44, is also being investigated for a call made from his cell phone threatening to shoot down a helicopter flying over the fair. Oleson is the prosecutor for Custer County and works at the Blaser, Oleson and Lloyd law firm in Blackfoot. He also serves on the Eastern Idaho State Fair Board representing Bingham County.
The misdemeanor battery charges stem from an incident that reportedly happened around 6:15 p.m. Sept. 7 when two 14-year-old boys reported they were physically battered by Oleson.
“The victims reported being inside a vehicle that was in the process of entering the Bingham County Fairgrounds to participate/spectate in the upcoming Demolition Derby,” a probable cause statement obtained by EastIdahoNews.com states. “The victims reported being confronted by a male, later identified as Justin Oleson, about having the appropriate wristbands for entry to the Demolition Derby.”
The boys said they told Oleson they did not have the right wristbands and that he “physically opened the vehicle door, grabbed the two juvenile males, and physically removed them from the vehicle while yelling vulgarities at them.”
A woman driving the truck told police that a “Fair Board Representative with a long beard wearing a cowboy hat” was checking the incoming vehicles. She explained that Oleson yelled at the boys to “get the f*** out of the truck” before opening the door and physically removing them.
“(She) stated that after Justin Oleson removed the two juvenile males, he yelled at her to get her ‘f****** truck moving,'” court documents say.
Blackfoot Police officers were called to the scene and spoke with the woman, the teenage boys and witnesses. They also interviewed Oleson, who said he “did not recall” physically touching anyone but he did remember “two juvenile males being upset and walking in the area he was working during entry for the Demolition Derby.”
The teenagers and their guardians asked that battery charges be filed against Oleson. Twin Falls Prosecuting Attorney Grant P. Loebs is acting as a special prosecutor in the case and filed the charges Jan. 9.
Oleson is also under investigation for a separate incident that apparently happened a few days earlier on Sept. 3. The attorney allegedly threatened to shoot down a Tadd Jenkins Auto Group helicopter that was providing rides to fairgoers.
EastIdahoNews.com obtained an audio recording of the phone call made to the auto group. It contains the caller’s phone number, which matches Oleson’s cell phone number. Law enforcement in several jurisdictions have confirmed to EastIdahoNews.com the voice on the call is Oleson.
“You tell that guy in that helicopter if he flies over my house that low again, I’m gonna shoot that son of a b****,” the caller says to the Tadd Jenkins receptionist. “He does not need to be taking my trees out at my house. You tell him. You tell him he’s gonna get shot down that low.”
As the receptionist tells the caller he needs to speak with the general manager, the man hangs up.
Oleson has not been charged in connection to the threatening phone call, but Loebs confirms his office is looking into the matter.
“We were asked to take on and screen the cases due to a conflict of interest,” Loebs tells EastIdahoNews.com. “We are still looking at it and it shouldn’t be long before a decision is made.”
EastIdahoNews.com left voicemail and text messages for Oleson that were not returned Thursday. Messages were also left at his Blackfoot law office and with the Custer County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.
Oleson was appointed by Custer County Commissioners as the county prosecutor in January 2017, according to county clerk Lura Baker. He will hold the position for four years as an elected official. Wayne Butts, the chairman for the Board of Commissioners, was unaware of Oleson’s charges when contacted by EastIdahoNews.com Thursday and said he was unable to comment.
Oleson is one of six people to sit on the Eastern Idaho State Fair Board of Directors and has represented Bingham County for years. Board members are appointed by County Commissioners in the places where they reside.
Whitney Manwaring, the chairman for the Bingham County Board of Commissioners, declined to comment on Oleson’s charges but says he has been pleased having the attorney representing the county.
“I feel he’s done a good job in the past and other Fair Board members feel he’s done well,” Manwaring says. “Sometimes people get in situations that maybe aren’t for the best but I’m not going to comment on someone else’s personal matter.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: This story has been updated with the fact that Oleson was appointed as the Custer County Prosecutor in 2017. He is not a contracted employee; rather, he serves in his position as an elected official.