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  Hart says he’ll pay state for timber
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Last EditedRBH  Oct 21, 2010 04:33pm
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AuthorBetsy Z. Russell
News DateTuesday, October 19, 2010 10:00:00 PM UTC0:0
DescriptionIdaho state Rep. Phil Hart announced Monday that he’s sending a check to the state for logs he took from school endowment land in 1996 to build his home and said, “I was mistaken to have done what I did.”

Hart, R-Athol, didn’t disclose the amount of the check, but said he’s reimbursing the state for the 1996 market value of the logs. The Idaho Department of Lands determined in 1996 that the trees he cut illegally from state school endowment land near Spirit Lake were worth $2,443. That’s just a fraction of what Hart owes the state, however; the penalty for stealing state endowment-owned timber is “treble damages,” or three times the value.

After Hart was identified as the timber thief, he was ordered to pay $7,328. Instead, he fought the case in court, arguing that as a citizen, he had a right to cut and take the logs to build his home. He lost three times, ending in the state Court of Appeals, and each time incurred judgments for the state’s attorney fees and court costs for appeals deemed frivolous.

In the end, the Idaho Department of Lands filed a lien against Hart in Kootenai County for $22,827 in the case; that lien still is outstanding, but because more than five years have passed since the judgment, it’s no longer enforceable. State Attorney General Lawrence Wasden, however, has dubbed it a “moral obligation” that still should be paid.
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