Woman pleads not guilty to causing death of deputy, attorneys argue over internal investigation

Woman pleads not guilty to causing death of deputy, attorneys argue over internal investigation

Jenna Holm’s indictment held over Zoom. Parties that are not directly involved in the case are fuzzy.

IDAHO FALLS – A local woman pleaded guilty after prosecutors alleged her actions caused the death of a Bonneville County Sheriff’s MP in 2020.

Jenna Holm, 35, appeared from Bonneville County Jail via Zoom on her indictment before District Judge Dane H. Watkins Jr. During the hearing on Wednesday, Holm joined the plea and a trial was scheduled for August 30.

The prosecution has charged Holm with involuntary manslaughter and serious assault with a lethal weapon. Additionally, there is a sentence amendment that would extend Holm’s sentence by 15 years if convicted, which means she could spend up to 30 years behind bars.

The indictment goes back to an incident on May 18, in which MPs found a disturbed spar with a machete on a country road. During the incident, Rep. Wyatt Maser was hit and killed by another MP who was reacting to the scene. Prosecutors allege Holm committed several illegal acts that brought local MPs and ultimately led to Maser’s death.

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Idaho law allows a person to be charged with involuntary manslaughter if a person dies while “engaged in the persecution or attempted illegal activity.” Bonneville County Attorneys used this section of the law to indict Holm.

Defense attorneys Rocky Wixom and Jordan Crane appear to be trying to turn the case against Bonneville County’s Sheriff MPs Randy Flagel, Ben Bottcher and Maser. The men were there on May 18, and Flagel was the deputy who hit Maser with his patrol SUV.

During the first discovery of the case, Holm’s defense team requested information from an internal investigation by the Bonneville County Sheriff’s Office into the incident. The documents contained personnel files. After failing to get what it wanted, the defense filed a coercion motion in February, telling Watkins to order the release of the information.

“One of the main lines of defense for Ms. Holm is the conduct of Sgt. Randy Flagel, Deputy Ben Bottcher and Deputy Wyatt Maser,” Wixom wrote in a document supporting his request. “Any behavior by any part of the officers, individually or collectively, is an essential factor that the jury must consider when asked by the prosecution to blame Ms. Holm for the tragic death of officer Maser.”

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Civil attorneys for the Bonneville County Attorney’s Office and the Bonneville County Sheriff’s Office appealed Wixom’s petitions of their own. They argued the internal investigation was exempt from disclosure to attorneys under the Idaho Public Records Act. They also claimed that such items were protected under attorney and client law.

Prosecutors wrote in their objection that protecting the records ensures compliance with the Sheriff’s Office policies and that they want to protect the techniques used to conduct internal investigations.

Weston Davis, a prosecutor for the district attorney, said during a March 17 hearing that the Bonneville County district attorney had two separate responsibilities: to prosecute suspected criminals and to act as a defense against any legal matters raised against the county.

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“Because of that, you have a crime department and you have a civil department,” Davis said. “It cannot be presumed that the civil department also knows what’s going on because the crime department knows what’s going on.”

The internal investigation was conducted separately from the criminal investigation against Holm, Davis said. He said the internal investigation had weighed the risk of the situation to the county and put protective measures in place. He said the facts of the case had been disclosed to defense lawyers and that the internal investigation was not relevant to Holm’s prosecution.

Holms prosecutors and defense lawyers are expected to raise the issue at a hearing on April 19th. Watkins will then decide whether the internal investigation is protected under the privilege of an attorney or a client, or whether it must be brought to the defense.

“This is a very important issue for the parties,” Watkins said in March. “I can feel it in the arguments … I want to keep the integrity of it.”