Docuseries on Pocatello 'corruption' wins regional Emmy; plus, an update on the $21 million lawsuit that preceded it - East Idaho News
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Docuseries on Pocatello ‘corruption’ wins regional Emmy; plus, an update on the $21 million lawsuit that preceded it

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Photo: The border between Chubbuck and Pocatello as it runs through the Rupp family’s property; Video: The Great Pocatello Land Grab trailer, which recently won an Northwest Emmy from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. Kalama Hines,; Courtesy YouTube
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POCATELLO — While it has not yet been sold — or even completed — a docuseries on a Pocatello lawsuit has already garnered regional attention in the form of a regional Emmy.

The trailer for the docuseries “The Great Pocatello Land Grab” recently received the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Northwest Chapter Emmy for a Single-Spot Non-News Promotion.

RELATED | Docuseries on Pocatello land rights lawsuits will ‘end careers’ according to its producer

David Duquette, the founder and director of the Western Justice Legislative Fund, which is the producer of the docuseries, said he was not aware his work had won, just that it was nominated. Duquette told that he sat in the back of the room watching as no less than 10 people said in their acceptance speeches that they had been in the industry for 20-plus years and were excited to receive their first award.

Joking, Duquette wondered why it was so easy to win one with his debut work.

“It’s a pretty big honor to get one of those, and it was very entertaining to be there,” he said over the phone. “A little out of my wheelhouse, people-wise, but we had fun — we had a bunch of cowboys in a sea of Hollywood-type folks.”

The Western Justice table, he added, was the loudest in the room when its name was called.

David Duquette wins regional Emmy for 'Great Pocatello Land Grab' docuseries trailer
Photo courtesy David Duquette

The series covers a series of lawsuit filed against the city of Pocatello, its Mayor Brian Blad, and developers Ken Pape and Arvil Swaney — and their respective companies, Portneuf Development LLC and Millennial Development Partners LLC.

RELATED | Local family files $21 million lawsuit against the city of Pocatello, others

Once completed, Duquette expects the four-part series to explore what he called corruption on the part of the defendants and others. However, the series has yet to be completed. In part because the story cannot fully be told.

“Part of the snag is, there’s still so much going on,” Duquette said.

For starters, it has been 12 months since the lawsuit was dismissed due to late filings from the attorney for the plaintiffs — Nathan Olsen. Olsen told that the cause of the late filing was late discovery disclosure on the part of the attorney for the defendants — in the form of thousands of documents.

Along with an appeal filed by Olsen, the past 12 months have seen District Judge Robert Naftz award more than $300,000 in legal fees to the defendant and one of the defendants — Swaney — filing a motion to hold Olsen in contempt of court and jailed.

“The motion is totally baseless. … We’re still dealing with that,” Olsen told “The only way to view it is as ‘lawfare.'”

Olsen also raised questions about the legality of the $300,000 award and efforts to collect.

According to the attorney, there have been efforts made to seize 287 acres of land from the Rupp Family Trust — an irrevocable trust — as payment.

There are two issues with that, Olsen explained.

For starters, there is an appeal already filed which would put a hold on any award being collected.

Also, the fact that the trust is irrevocable means that it cannot be taken for any reason — even as a judgement lien, which is what the defendants are claiming.

“Not even the IRS can seize it,” Olsen said. “Any kind of judgement lien they would have is not even worth the paper that it’s on.”

Despite it being a legal violation, Olsen said his clients — the eldest surviving generation of Rupps, including trustee LaVelle Rupp — have lost all faith in the system. So, they have emptied all available funds in order to pay a bond on the award in order to protect the property — which Olsen says is worth exponentially more than the defendants are claiming.

“What they’re doing to him right now is sickening,” Duquette said.

Western Justice is a non-profit organization providing assistance in legal defense to ranchers and farmers. Duquette and his team have assisted in any similar situations, and the investigators in their employ have seen even more.

Instances like this are no “anomaly,” he said. But the depth of this one is far worse than he or anyone else on his team have seen. It is no hyperbole, he said, to compare this situation to something that would be found in Venezuela.

“There’s something very nefarious going on,” he said. “… The whole thing is going to blow up in some of these guys’ faces, and hopefully it’s going to be sooner than later.”

Duquette, who referred to himself as “just a dumb, high school-educated Marine” who “likes to fight,” said he started Western Justice to protect people like the Rupps from what he openly describes as “corruption

About the Rupps specifically, Duquette voice clear frustration. At his age, and in fading health, Duquette said, LaVelle should be building a retirement estate and kicking his feet up. Instead, he finds himself fighting to keep land that has been in his family for five generations.

“LaVelle is not in good health and they’re killing him,” Duquette. “… It’s pretty sad.”

Olsen and the Rupps, like Duquette, are continuing their fight. Olsen’s appeal was officially filed this week. And soon, he said, the case will “soon be completely outside of the jurisdiction of the current judge, Robert Naftz.”

There is a hearing set for Monday regarding the motion to hold Olsen in contempt.

Asked what is the basis for the motion, Olsen said it is “very strange,” before explaining that is has to do with his naming of one of Swaney’s investors in the lawsuit. Including that name, Olsen said Swaney’s attorneys are claiming, was a violation of confidential information.

But, Olsen continued, that investor came to him and provided his information openly. In fact, should the case continue, that investor would be willing to testify on Olsen’s behalf, Olsen said.

Beyond that, Olsen expects a hearing regarding his appeal to the dismissal of the lawsuit to be set sometime in August or September.

“I am very confident, frankly, in our appeal,” he said.