BLACKFOOT (AP) — An eastern Idaho sheriff accused of threatening a church youth group with a gun and assaulting one of its leaders can stay on the job but must surrender all of his firearms to the Idaho State Police.
A judge's ruling December 29 also requires Bingham County Sheriff Craig Rowland to have no contact with the alleged victims.
The Idaho attorney general's office earlier this month charged Rowland with aggravated battery, aggravated assault and misdemeanor exhibition of a gun. Rowland did not enter a plea on Wednesday, his first appearance in court on the charges. First appearances involve procedural matters such as advising people of their rights.
In court documents, investigators with the Idaho attorney general's office wrote that a youth group from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was participating in an activity Nov. 9 where they delivered thank-you notes to members of the congregation. The girls, aged 12 to 16, taped the notes to the churchgoers' doors and then rang their doorbells, running away before they could be seen.
Seven of the youth group members and an adult leader went to Rowland's neighborhood to leave a note for the sheriff and his wife, according to the court documents. In separate interviews with investigators, members of the youth group and Rowland both reportedly said that after the group left the note, Rowland stopped their car from driving away, pulled the adult driver out of the vehicle by her hair and pointed his handgun at her head, yelling profanities at her.
Rowland agreed to take a leave of absence shortly after the allegations arose in November, but has since returned to the job.
Prosecutors on Wednesday sought to have Judge Faren Eddins require Rowland to take a prolonged leave. But Eddins said Rowland was innocent until proven guilty and denied that request.
Rowland has said he received threats in recent months and worried about people coming to his home. In a statement, he disparaged the people on the nearby Shoshone-Bannock Tribes' Fort Hall Reservation, referencing intoxication, calling them “not good people'' and saying their proximity was the reason for his actions.
Bingham County Prosecutor Paul Rogers, Blackfoot Mayor Marc Carroll and the Tribes have called on Rowland to step down.
Rowland is next scheduled to appear in court Jan. 26.