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As Trial Nears, Details Emerge in Intimidation Case

David Lenio’s attorney argues that evidence from interview should be suppressed

The Kalispell man accused of threatening school children and religious leaders on social media appeared in Flathead County District Court on June 29 as his attorney asked that evidence gathered during a police station interview be dismissed.

David Joseph Lenio, 28, who recently moved to the Flathead Valley from Michigan, has been charged with intimidation and criminal defamation, both felonies, after he allegedly sent a series of Twitter messages this winter saying that he was going to open fire inside a local school and assassinate Jewish religious leaders. He pleaded not guilty to the charges on March 19.

On June 29, Lenio renewed his not guilty plea after prosecutors filed amended information that included more details about the man’s alleged online rants. The newly filed court documents included a series of threatening tweets that were allegedly sent by Lenio in late December.

In the tweets, Lenio reportedly says that he wants to go on a shooting spree at a school in Kalispell and that he wants someone to “beat the sandy hoax school shooting spree high score,” in an apparent reference to the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting in Connecticut where 26 people, including 20 children, were shot and killed.

Those tweets, and others posted in early February, gained the attention of Jonathan Hutson, a spokesperson for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence in Washington, D.C. Hutson informed law enforcement, who discovered that Lenio was in the Kalispell area. Soon after, law enforcement discovered that Lenio had allegedly moved guns to his home, an action that posed a “very real threat,” according to Kalispell Police Chief Roger Nasset. Lenio was arrested on Feb. 16 in a parking lot at Whitefish Mountain Resort.

Lenio was then taken to the Kalispell Police Department where a representative with the Federal Bureau of Investigation began to question him about the tweets. During the first few minutes of the interview, Lenio told authorities that he was trying to “draw attention to a problem” and engage people in a discussion about homelessness.

On June 29, Lenio’s attorney, Brent Getty, argued that anything from that interrogation should be suppressed because Agent Steven Liss did not read Lenio his Miranda rights for seven minutes. During the hearing, the court viewed the first seven minutes of the interview and Agent Liss testified that he was simply trying to inform Lenio about why they had detained him before reading the Miranda rights. Liss said that Lenio kept interrupting the officers.

“I was not trying to illicit an incriminating response (before I read him his rights), I was trying to inform him of why we were there,” Liss said.

County Attorney Ed Corrigan argued that the evidence obtained during the interrogation should not be suppressed and that anything Lenio said before he was read his rights was given voluntarily.

Judge Heidi Ulbricht will now take both arguments into consideration. She is also considering a motion to dismiss the charges all together because, according to Lenio’s attorney, his client never committed a crime nor made a specific threat.

Lenio’s trial is expected to begin on Aug. 3.