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Lewiston Morning Tribune Tuesday, August 5, 1997

Around the Region

**Latah County jury is seated in child custody case

MOSCOW -- Opening statements and testimony in the Fred L. Leas child custody interference trial are scheduled to begin at 9 this morning at the Latah County Courthouse.

A jury of six women and six men, with one woman alternate, was seated late Monday afternoon after a daylong selection process.

Leas, 48, is charged with taking two of his four children who were by court order in the custody of their mother. The children, according to authorities, were found last summer in South Dakota.

Leas, of Helmer, also faces a felony charge of attempting to influence jurors for allegedly being involved in the placement of a large sign outside the courthouse when the trial was originally scheduled to begin earlier this summer. The sign called for all four of Leas children to testify in their father's trial.

Leas has maintained he acted for the safety of the children. He has also said authorities have prevented his children from speaking on his behalf.

However, Latah County Deputy Prosecutor Robin Eckmann has listed all four Leas children as possible witnesses in the case.

Leas is being defended by Latah County Public Defender Steven C. Mahaffy.

Second District Judge John R. Stegner of Moscow is presiding over the trial, which is expected to last perhaps a week.

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Last modified: August 21, 1997
Email: Joe Huffman