[Vision2020] County prosecutor celebrates 25 years

Moscow Cares moscowcares at moscow.com
Wed Nov 15 04:14:19 PST 2017

Courtesy of today’s (November 15, 2017) Moscow-Pullman Daily News.


County prosecutor celebrates 25 years
Bill Thompson says he like being at work but playing music is part of his sanity

Twenty-five years ago, Bill Thompson left behind his own private law practice, narrowly won the general election and was sworn in as Latah County prosecutor.

Now, he says he can't image doing anything else.

Thompson was elected county prosecutor after the previous holder of the position, Craig Mosman, unexpectedly announced he would not run for a second term and would be quitting just two days after the 1992 election.

Instead of finding a temporary prosecutor to finish out Mosman's term, Thompson was sworn into office less than a week after being elected.

In the general election Thompson, a Democrat, narrowly defeated Republican Senior Deputy Doug Whitney, with 51 percent of the vote. During his swearing in ceremony, Thompson asked Whitney to continue to work with him as the senior deputy prosecutor.

Thompson told the Daily News in 1992 that it was clear voters wanted Whitney to stay in office as well.

"Together, we can represent - as the prosecuting attorney's office - a broad range of interests in Latah County," he said.

The two worked together until Whitney retired in 1998.

The new job was a major change for Thompson, who for the previous 11 years had run a successful private practice with his wife, Frances, which they called their "mom and pop law shop."

Thompson said the prosecutor position had always been appealing to him but he had never seriously considered running for office. That is, until his wife gave him an ultimatum.

"I guess I must have been talking about it more than I realized because she said 'OK, Bill, run for office or stop talking about it,' and so I did" he recalled.

That one comment would define their next 25 years.

The weight of what he had taken on struck him full force the first day he sat in the courtroom at the prosecutor's table, he said.

"I was sitting at the council table by myself - that was just striking," he said explaining that for 12 years as a defense attorney he had always sat next to a client representing their interests, and now he was responsible for representing society and justice as a whole.

Thompson said, "I'm not at the same level of physical energy that I had 25 years ago, but I hope I make up for it with being a lot more efficient in what I do."

Thompson said as prosecutor he makes a bigger difference in the community than even judges, public defenders or anyone else in the legal profession.

"The prosecutor is the one who makes the decision on filing charges or not filing charges," Thompson said.

Although being the county prosecutor comes with a large amount of influence it also comes with great responsibility to remain consistent, he said. Prosecutors must look into the future and be able to weigh how their decisions are going to impact cases down the road, Thompson said.

Being the county prosecutor for the past 25 years has also required Thompson to make personal tradeoffs and he admits he has missed out on family trips and given up hobbies because of the time required to do his job properly.

Thompson said he wishes he had been able to take his two sons to Virginia to visit family more often while they were growing up.

"Taking the time from work to go back east is difficult - not like we could readily do a long weekend," he said.

Thompson said a trip to visit his mother soon is on the "to-do list"

"If you are going to do this job correctly, it becomes all consuming," Thompson said, "This is not a job you do halfway."

Thompson said the only time he seems to stop thinking about work is when he is playing the guitar in one of four local bands. Thompson is a member of The Intentions, Gefilte Trout, Hog Heaven Big Band and The B Sides, and says he plays everything from folk, to old rock and even big band swing music from the '20s and '30s.

"That's part of my sanity, playing music - once I start playing it's like that part of my brain from the office is shut off," Thompson said. "It's really the only time that my mind doesn't have actively something from the office going on. It just disappears for a while."

Thompson said he is going to continue taking his position as county prosecutor one term at a time and striving to keep Latah County as one of the highest ranking prosecutor's offices in the state of Idaho.

To date, Thompson said, Latah County is the only prosecutor's office in Idaho that has successfully tried a homicide case without a body. In 2014, Thompson and his Senior Deputy Mia Vowels successful tried and obtained a guilty verdict against Charles Capone, who murdered a Clarkston, Wash., woman and disposed of her body in the Snake River in 2010. Rachael Anderson's body still has not been found.

Thompson says he has received many awards during his time in office, the most recent being the Professionalism Award he received from the Idaho State Bar Association in Lewiston on Nov. 2.

He said none of his success would be possible without his staff, which has steadily grown larger from only three prosecutors since he first took office to six prosecutors, each with a full-time legal assistant and a law school intern.

He said his position has given him the opportunity to do things he would never have dreamt of, and he doesn't regret deciding to run for office at all.

"I like it here, I like being in the office and being at work," Thompson said.


Here’s to a very successful career, Mr. Thompson.  Cheers.

Bill Thompson and the Intentions performing at Concerts in the Plaza (June 22, 2015)

Seeya 'round town, Moscow, because . . .

"Moscow Cares" (the most fun you can have with your pants on)
Tom Hansen
Moscow, Idaho

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