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Investigation into officer’s actions delays trial

The Superior woman whose January arrest in the parking lot of Keyport Liquor sparked an investigation into a Superior police officer’s use of force won’t be going to trial this month.

Natasha Nashai Lancour, 28, faces one count of disorderly conduct stemming from the incident. A trial was set to begin July 22 in Douglas County Circuit Court.

Judge Kelly Thimm took the trial off the court calendar Thursday and scheduled a status conference for Oct. 31.

The reason for the delay is no decision has been made regarding the actions of Superior Police Officer George Gothner on the night of the arrest.

“I think ... both sides that wants some answers on the other part of the investigation before we make final decisions on this case,” said Douglas County District Attorney Dan Blank.

Although he has pushed repeatedly for a quick resolution to the case, Gondik agreed.

“From the defense perspective, the focus should not be on my client; the focus should be on the officer,” he said. “And adjourning this will put the focus back where it properly belongs and give hopefully some guidance to the district attorney, who’s prosecuting this case, to decide what he thinks is best and fair after the ... investigation of the officer is done.”

Both attorneys said they were surprised at the length of time it has taken to come to a decision on Gothner’s use of force.

“It’s taking longer than any of us would like; it’s out of our hands right now,” Blank said.

It’s an important, potentially career-ending decision to make, Gondik said. “We err on the side of making sure there’s a full investigation, a complete investigation, versus a rush to judgment.”

The use-of-force investigation was under review by special prosecutor Fred Bourg, the Bayfield County District Attorney. He indicated in a June interview with the Telegram the decision would be made through a judicial review, a John Doe hearing. Doing so allows oversight of the case by the judicial branch of government instead of the executive branch, which includes both district attorney offices and police departments. Online court records show a John Doe hearing was filed in Douglas County by Bourg. Bayfield County Circuit Court Judge John Anderson sealed the case, and no further information is available publically.

Blank and Gondik asked Thimm for a date in mid- to late-October for Lancour’s next status conference.

“That’s a timeline we got from the special prosecutor as to when the next completion of investigation should be done,” Blank said.

The delay is necessary to get a decision on the use-of-force issue, they agreed.

Lancour is no danger to the public, Blank said, and the state is not looking to punish her.

“So I think this is the kind of case where, if it takes some extra time, that’s no harm to the community, no harm to Ms. Lancour, no harm to the state’s side of the case,” the district attorney said.

Lancour would like to have the “stormcloud” of a pending court case lifted, Gondik said, but she isn’t in jail and the delay does not prejudice her case.

“Would she like it over? Absolutely,” Gondik said. “Does she understand? She does.”