Assault with a weapon charges refiled against father, son
POLSON — A father and son have been recharged with assault with a weapon stemming from a June 7, 2015 incident related to a dispute about access to property.
According to Lake County Attorney Steve Eschenbacher, William Robert Hocker, 59, and Russell Almon Hocker, 28, originally received three-year deferred prosecution agreements in the case for allegedly ramming a locked gate with an ATV, knocking a man backwards, running over his leg and pepper spraying him.
According to a court document, with Russell driving, the Hockers rode an ATV past a gate into a neighbor’s field and the lock on the gate had been cut. When the ATV came toward the gate, the alleged victim, Kevin Clairmont, relatched it to keep the men there until law enforcement arrived, the document states. The Hockers also allegedly tried to run over Clairmont’s son Nick.
The incident took place near Clairmont and North Foothills roads east of Pablo.
Eschenbacher said he refiled the charges because the men recently got into a fight with another neighbor at the 325 Bar & Grill in Ronan. In court on Nov. 22, Eschenbacher said William Robert Hocker assaulted a Lake County citizen without provocation.
Eschenbacher said the Hockers have paid restitution in the earlier case.
Their arraignments are scheduled for 9 a.m. Dec. 6 before Judge James A. Manley.
Another Hocker son, Robert William Hocker, 22, of Missoula, also received a three-year deferred prosecution agreement for charges of criminal endangerment and criminal trespass, the latter a misdemeanor, in an order signed by Judge James A. Manley on Dec. 29, 2016. A robbery charge was dismissed. In that case, Hocker allegedly approached Sharon “Sam” Scott and took her camera on North Foothills Road. He was required to pay restitution of $375.
Supreme Court decision
According to a court document, a canal (and irrigation pipeline) in the area was subject to lawsuit. That case was Canyon View Farms, Inc., William R. Hocker, Sherri Hocker, Russell Hocker and Robert Hocker vs. Karen L. Ainslie and Sharon M. Scott.
The Hockers, who operate a potato farm, sued in 2015 due to blocked access to their irrigation pipeline. Scott and Ainslie, aka “the Scotts,” counter filed for trespass. District Court Judge Robert Allison of Kalispell issued a decision that the Hockers appealed to the state Supreme Court.
According to the Supreme Court’s July 5, 2016 ruling, which affirmed Allison’s ruling, the Hockers (through predecessors William C. Hocker and Phyllis D. Hocker) were granted an irrigation easement across the Scotts’ land on Feb. 18, 1974.
The dispute regarding access to the land began in May 2013.
Allison ruled that the Hockers possessed a 15-foot easement for an underground irrigation pipeline and a secondary easement above the pipeline for maintenance that they could access by foot, ATV or motorcycle once a day from April 15-Sept. 15.
He also ruled that the Scotts’ blockade was a violation of a state law prohibiting interference with canal or ditch easements.
“The District Court did not err because it fashioned an appropriate remedy based on the evidence,” the Supreme Court said in its 5-0 ruling.
In addition, Allison was correct in not awarding attorney’s fees to the Hockers because the Hockers’ conduct was also improper and the Scotts removed impediments as soon as they had notice of the secondary maintenance easement. Allison also ruled that the Hockers had trespassed at least twice.
The Supreme Court ruling states that “the record reflects mutual disrespect and mistreatment which evolved into unfortunate violence between the neighbors.”