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Sweet deal for renegade rider

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More than a year after being run down by a motorcyclist who was off-roading in an area off-limits to motorized use, Bob Clark says he was stunned to learn last week that the man accused of attacking him had struck a deal with prosecutors reducing the felony assault charge to a misdemeanor charge of disturbing the peace.

“Forest Service law enforcement did a commendable job in investigating the incident and tracking down the assailant, and I put my trust in the criminal justice system that the attacker would be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” said Clark, conservation organizer with the Montana Chapter of the Sierra Club. “I think there was an opportunity here that I’m concerned may be missed.”

Timothy D. Turner of Stevensville is the man accused of running Clark down on July 30, 2006, while Clark was trying to photograph the illegal off-road riding in the Great Burn proposed wilderness on the Idaho/Montana border. Earlier this summer prosecutors charged Turner with felony aggravated assault, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and up to $5,000 in fines. But according to the Lewiston [Idaho] Tribune, Turner came to an agreement with Clearwater County prosecutors whereby he’ll plead guilty to a lesser misdemeanor charge of disturbing the peace, which carries a maximum penalty of six months in jail and a $300 fine. (Clearwater County officials did not return a call by press time, and Turner declined to comment.)

Jason Kiely, communications coordinator for WildlandsCPR, a Missoula-based group that advocates for stiff penalties for illegal roading, says, “Law enforcement should make an example of particularly egregious violations to send a message. But if he gets a slap on the wrist with no jail time, it’s really not going to send much of a message to other would-be lawbreakers.”

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