Woman says ‘lazy’ police investigation damaged her reputation after charges dismissed
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ASHTON — A St. Anthony woman says the Ashton Police Department damaged her reputation after a “lazy” and “biased” investigation.
In March, Leslie Walker was charged with felony grand theft. The charge came after she wrote a $300 check in 2015 from the business account of Disaster Restoration — a company she helped found. The current owners, Justin and Brooke Hunter, are Walker’s former business partners. They claimed she didn’t have a right to the money and went to the police, which led to the charges.
But two months later, the charges against Walker were dropped after she said it was determined she had the legal authority to write, sign and cash the check.
“(Police) never contacted us or tried to get our side of the story,” Walker told EastIdahoNews.com. “(Police) took it to the prosecuting attorney, and she never did anything. She just took the word that Ashton Police had done their investigation. … It basically was a lazy, biased investigation.”
Before writing the check, Walker and her husband, Marty, dissolved their business partnership with the Hunters and Disaster Restoration. When the partnership dissolved, Walker said she retained access to a line of credit and the bank account used to start the company. She said the $300 was used to pay a business expense for Disaster Restoration.
Walker believes Justin Hunter and the Ashton Police detective who performed the investigation, were friends, which she says played a role in charges being filed.
“Justin Hunter went to the police officer,” Walker said. “Through our investigation, our lawyer determined they are good friends.”
Ashton Police Chief Greg Griffel told EastIdahoNews.com that was not the case. He says the detective did not have any contact with the Hunters before investigating the incident, and the detective did not know the couple other than that they owned a local business. Griffel also said the detective followed department protocol while investigating.
“When we receive a call and any kind of incident, we investigate it regardless of who it is,” Griffel said. “We investigate everybody the same. … Unfortunately, that is going to put people in a position where they will get their feelings hurt.”
The detective performed his investigation in the latter part of 2019, and in November sent his affidavit of probable cause to the county prosecutor’s office. In the document, the detective says he took the complaint from the Hunters. He wrote the couple provided information that allegedly showed Walker was not on the business account and said she did not have permission to write the check.
The affidavit led to the March grand theft charge. Walker was issued a court summons; however, before Walker could appear, Fremont County Prosecutor Marcia Murdoch dismissed the charge.
East Idaho News contacted Murdoch immediately after the dismissal of the charge, but she declined to comment.
Although the criminal charges against Walker were dropped, there are still civil proceedings going on between the Walkers and the Hunters. On Dec. 17, 2019, the Hunters filed a lawsuit claiming the Walkers failed to meet their contractual obligations when dissolving the company.
The Hunters claim the Walkers did not allow the Hunters to use tools and other equipment for Disaster Restoration.
The Walkers responded with a counterclaim, saying they opened a line of credit in their name where the Hunters allegedly withdrew $24,000. The purchases included a trailer valued at $4,500 and $2,000 of expenses paid by the Walkers on behalf of the Hunters.
Additionally, the counterclaim asserts the criminal charge was part of an effort by the Hunters to discredit Walker.
“Justin Hunter and Brooke Hunter did conspire with (the detective), a police officer for the City of Ashton, to maliciously and wrongfully cause the prosecution of defendant Leslie Walker,” the Walkers’ attorney, Lynn Hossner, writes in the counterclaim. “When in truth and in fact, the said defendant Leslie Walker had not committed such felony crime, and there was no probable cause to assert that she had done so.”
Due to the emotional distress and “permanent and irreparable injury” to Leslie Walker’s reputation allegedly caused by the Hunters, the Walkers are seeking $75,000. The Hunters are not seeking a specific amount in their claim.
Josh Garner, the attorney for the Hunters, had no comment about the criminal case or civil complaint.
A jury trial for the lawsuit is scheduled to begin Dec. 3 in Fremont County.