POCATELLO — A docuseries titled “The Great Pocatello Land Grab,” focused on alleged criminal dealings on behalf of the city of Pocatello, is in production and expected to be released in the near future.
The Rupp and Hart families, from Pocatello, reached out to Western Justice, which founder and president Dave Duquette described as the NRA of the Western lifestyle, for help with land rights issues. Duquette told EastIdahoNews.com he quickly saw that “something wasn’t right.”
“It’s probably going to be one of the biggest RICO and racketeering situations since the mob — and that’s not exaggerating even a little bit,” said Duquette, who added the details behind the pending lawsuits that inspired the documentary are worse than anything he’d previously seen. “It got deeper and darker the more we looked into it … and it’s going to involve a lot of people in town and in the area.”
The series will cover an ongoing lawsuit filed on behalf of the Rupp Family Trust — naming the city of Pocatello, Mayor Brian Blad and two development companies as defendants.
Lavelle Rupp, a Rupp Family Trustee, was limited in what information he is able to share, due to pending litigation, but said that evidence, if and when it is presented in court, will have a significant impact on the city and region.
“When (the information) all comes out, people are going to be shocked — at who has done what to whom,” he told EastIdahoNews.com. “It’s going to end careers.”
Western Justice, Duquette said, is shopping the documentary around to potential broadcast companies, so there is not timetable for release. But it is expected in the coming months.
The trust filed a lawsuit in 2021. It claims the city, its mayor, Portneuf Development LLC and Millennial Development Partners LLC engaged in criminal conspiracy, among other legal claims.
EastIdahoNews.com requested comment from city attorney Jared Johnson. City spokeswoman Marlise Irby-Facer said the city is not at liberty to discuss pending litigation.
“The case was dismissed by the District Court, but the plaintiffs have filed an appeal with the Idaho Supreme Court,” Irby-Facer said. “Until that appeal is resolved, the City of Pocatello has no comment on the litigation.”
As Rupp explained, his family’s trust sold a 150 foot-wide strip of land connecting Interstate 15 to the Olympus Drive. As part of the sales agreement, he said, an intersection connecting the two parcels of land on either side of that strip was supposed to have been constructed.
But, Rupp said, that intersection was never built. After the state became involved and demanded developers add a 40 foot-wide agricultural access, a 25 foot-wide curb cutout was made.
With no direct access connecting the two sides, it is impossible for the Rupp Family Trust to sell any of the property, which Rupp said was the family’s intention.
“The way the situation is right now, I don’t foresee anything up there for the next five to 10 years,” he added Tuesday.
Instead of being able to parcel out the land and sell it for development — at a value of roughly 465,000 per acre, according to the lawsuit — the developers named as co-defendants in the lawsuit have offered to purchase the land for $500 per acre.
The lawsuit, which requests $21 million in damages, was dismissed by order of District Judge Robert Naftz, when Rupp’s attorney Nathan Olsen filed court documents late.
Rupp told EastIdahoNews.com the delay was caused by a late records dump, consisting of several thousand pages of documents, from the attorney representing the defendants.
“Their job was to keep it out of the court system and out of the public eye,” Rupp said of the defense attorneys. “They accomplished that. But now it will go to the Supreme Court and hopefully everything will come out.”
Olesen filed a motion to reconsider, but it was denied by Naftz.
Now, an appeal has been lodged with the Idaho Supreme Court, which Rupp said is expected to offer a decision in the spring.
“It’s a really sad day when the court system won’t allow you to put your evidence in front of a jury,” he said. “It’s criminal, what they’ve done.”
Before the state’s highest court examines the evidence and offers a ruling though, the people of Pocatello will be able to preview the case — once the docuseries is released.