CALDWELL -- Since John Bujak resigned as Canyon County Prosecutor in 2010, taxpayers have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on cases involving him.
Not only has that much money been spent, the costs keep rising. Of three criminal cases against Bujak, one resulted in a not guilty verdict, another in a hung jury, and most recently one in a mistrial.
County nearing a half million in legal fees, still increasing
At this point, county records KTVB obtained show $444,112.82 has gone toward cases involving Bujak since he resigned, and most of that money has gone toward Bujak's defense. Additionally, most of the money has gone to cases involving allegations Bujak illegally took $236,000 from the county.
Most of costs are for Bujak's defense
Of the nearly half million spent on Bujak, $222,694.18 has gone toward Bujak's defense, for things like his public defender and an expert computer forensics expert he's using in two trials. Other expenses in that category include court records fees and a court-approved private investigator for Bujak.
Another big chunk ($143,231.84) is being spent by the county defending itself against Bujak's bankruptcy trustee. After Bujak resigned, he declared bankruptcy. Around the same time, KTVB reported Bujak had repaid the county around $171,000. Later, Bujak's bankruptcy trustee said all of his creditors should share in that money, and the county has been fighting to keep it since.
The last of the money, $78,186.80, is for things actually associated with prosecuting the former prosecutor. Most of the payments have to do with special prosecutors who needed to be brought in from other counties, since Canyon County has too many conflicts to handle any of this. Latah, Ada, and Malheur County prosecutors have all handled Bujak cases for Canyon County.
3 cases:Hung jury, mistrial, not guilty
Most of these legal issues and costs have had to do with one contract: A 2009 prosecution contract with the City of Nampa. The Latah County Prosecutor contends Bujak illegally took around $236,000 from Canyon County through that contract.
That accusation of public misuse of money has gone to a jury once, but there was a hung jury and mistrial declared. That case is now scheduled to be retried starting March 11.
In a spin-off from that misuse of money case, the special prosecutor from that case says Bujak falsified evidence, and another special prosecutor from Ada County handled that case. Last week, a mistrial was declared in that case after prosecutors said Bujak improperly introduced evidence without notifying opposing counsel.
Finally, a small portion of total prosecution costs have come from an unrelated case handled by the Malheur County Prosecutor. Bujak was accused (in Canyon County) of theft from an estate before he took office. A jury found him not guilty in that case.
County is court ordered to pay
Canyon County's spokesperson says the Board of Commissioners oversees the payments but are court ordered to pay the fees. The special prosecutors make decisions on how to handle the cases. The money for the prosecution and defense costs comes out of the county's justice fund. The money for the bankruptcy costs comes from the general fund.
Because there are gag orders on some of these issues, commissioners, attorneys, and Bujak declined comment.
Why would prosecutors keep going?
KTVB spoke with former Idaho Attorney General David Leroy about this case. He says while counties often pick up both prosecution and defense costs, some of the other circumstances, like the county being the alleged victim, and the defendant being its former legal advisor, are what really make this unusual.
He says the prosecutors are often motivated by much more than collecting money for clients in criminal cases. For example, the payout in continuing these cases could be largely in the public getting answers and holding someone accountable, if guilty.