An Idaho landlord who used a tractor to tear into a home he owned -- while a family of renters with ties to political extremists was inside -- has pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor in the case.
Paul Fagerlie Finman pleaded guilty to disturbing the peace for using tractor-lift tongs to break into the home that he owns while a woman and her children were inside of it, The Bonner County Daily Bee reports. No one was injured in the 2010 incident, but the family, which was in the process of being evicted by him, told authorities that the experience was terrifying.
Finman, who originally faced three counts of felony assault, claimed that the family told him that they would move out of the rental by Sept. 30, 2010, according to The Herald Times Reporter. The landlord has been trying to tear down the house for 18 months, and the process has led to "substantial stress in his life," Finman's attorney, Jeremy Featherston, told The Bonner County Daily Bee.
But Bonner County chief deputy prosecutor Shane Greenbank told AOL Real Estate that there is "zero" evidence that Finman had told the family that he intended to demolish the rental home before he drove his tractor into it. Leading up to the incident, Greenbank said, Alexander Duncan Campbell, a resident of the home who is reportedly a member of a right-wing extremist group, had been trying to negotiate rent with Finman. But Finman, who had recently acquired the property that the house sat on, "wasn't cooperative," and wanted the family evicted, Greenbank said.
"He decided that driving the tractor through the house was a quicker process," Greenbank said, adding that Finman pursued the family with his tractor after they fled the home.
Finman was sentenced to 180 days in jail and must pay more than $400 in fines and court costs. But 178 days of his sentence was suspended and he received credit for two days he'd already spent in jail.
With a glut of foreclosed homes sitting vacant on a depressed housing market, bizarre incidents stemming from unwanted occupations have seemed to proliferate. In one of the strangest cases, authorities recently discovered two alleged squatters with 10 hand grenades, drugs, a firearm and a pig.
No barnyard animals or weapons were apparently at the center of this case, which was not a foreclosed home. But Campbell is reportedly a member of the Sovereign Citizen Movement which, according to the FBI, is a group of "anti-government extremists" who reject institutions including "courts, taxing entities, motor vehicle departments, or law enforcement."
Campbell's hard-line beliefs reportedly led him to forbid his wife and children from testifying against Finman. The landlord told the Hagadone News Network that eviction proceedings began after he received a death threat from Campbell that was couched in Biblical rhetoric.
Greenbank said that the family members were "necessary witnesses" for him to proceed with felony charges. "We were in a position where we could not serve the victims in the case," he said, since Campbell refused to allow his family to testify unless the prosecutor made warrants out for Campbell's arrest "go away."
Campbell is reportedly wanted by the Idaho counties of Kootenai and Nez Perce for offenses that include illegal possession of a concealed weapon.
"As a result he's been in hiding since probably last November," Greenbank said. Hagadone News reported that the whereabouts of Campbell and his family are unknown as of Monday.