Bad: Idaho GOP leader arrested
He could have simply driven away.
Idaho Statesman, Thursday 20 August 2009
BOISE, Idaho — An Idaho Republican Party leader who helped oust the state GOP chairman in 2008 faces charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon after an altercation escalated while he photographed a home with a delinquent mortgage.
Challis McAffee, 33, the GOP chairman from the Boise suburb of Garden City and one of 231 voting members of the Idaho Republican Central Committee, was in Ada County jail after being accused of pointing a gun at the homeowner.
McAffee works for a contractor hired by Wells Fargo & Co. to document the condition of homes where mortgages are past due or in foreclosure.
McAffee, a backer of libertarian-leaning former GOP presidential candidate Ron Paul and an activist in this year's anti-big-government "Tea Party" protests, helped organize Paul backers who aligned at last June's Idaho State Republican Convention in Sandpoint with other foes of then-state GOP Chairman Kirk Sullivan. Sullivan was voted from office in favor of Norm Semanko.
According to police in the Boise suburb of Meridian, resident Robert Lutes called officers just before 5:30 p.m. Tuesday to report McAffee had pointed a .357 Magnum handgun at him during a verbal confrontation. McAffee acknowledged he pointed the gun at Lutes, according to the police account.
"I'm unarmed, I'm an old man," Lutes, 51, told The Associated Press on Thursday. "I'm trying to find out why he's taking pictures of my house. I said, 'Knock on my door, let me know what you want.' Then, I think he's reaching for his business card and he pulls out a concealed weapon and I think he's going to blow my head off."
Lutes said the gun was beneath a cloth on the floor of the passenger side of McAffee's vehicle.
The Idaho Republican Party said the arrest of one of its southwestern Idaho leaders was a "personal matter."
"It's not a party matter," said Jonathan Parker, state GOP director in Boise.
McAffee couldn't immediately be reached in jail.
Ryan Davidson, another Paul supporter who has gained attention by pushing pro-marijuana voter initiatives in the central Idaho town of Hailey, said McAffee told him a different version of the altercation in a phone call from jail:
Lutes confronted McAffee, becoming increasingly hostile, Davidson said. When Lutes struck McAffee's Ford Escort with his hand, McAffee brandished the weapon to de-escalate the conflict, Davidson said.
"Challis is one of the most mild-mannered, good-natured guys," Davidson said. "The conversation wasn't going anywhere, the guy smacked the car window. At that point, he (McAffee) felt threatened enough, he picked up the firearm in front of the seat that he carries for protection. The nature of the job is, you're going to run into some unhappy people."
Davidson has sent messages via Ron Paul e-mail lists in hopes of collecting the $50,000 needed to post bail for McAffee, whose arrest was originally reported in the Idaho Statesman.
"There will certainly be a lot of work to do on this case in order to help clear Challis' good name, but right now, the most pressing concern is to get Challis out of jail," Davidson wrote.
Tony Schewmaker, the Wells Fargo contractor who hired McAffee, knew him through libertarian-leaning groups such as We The People Foundation for Constitutional Education.
Schewmaker objected to the $50,000 bond, saying the steep figure resulted from 4th District Magistrate Judge Kevin Swain's objections to the weapon. Schewmaker also keeps a handgun in his vehicle, in particular for business in isolated, rural areas.
"Apparently, we can't use a gun in our own protection," Schewmaker told the AP. "You can have it to look pretty. But if somebody is attempting to attack you, you can't pull it out of the holster. That's what I'm gathering from this."
After a call from the AP, Wells Fargo spokeswoman Julia Tunis Bernard in San Francisco said the company would look into the incident.
Meanwhile, Lutes, who concedes he's fallen behind on mortgage payments, said he may hire a lawyer to pursue a civil complaint against the bank, McAffee, and Schewmaker's company.
"The contractor is liable, he (McAffee) is liable and Wells Fargo is liable," Lutes said. "He wouldn't have been there if it wouldn't have been for Wells Fargo strong-arming people."