LOGAN — A 30-year-old Preston, Idaho man has pleaded not guilty to attempted murder, after a judge ruled there was probable cause to bind him over for trial on charges that he threatened to kill first responders, after a traffic accident near Lewiston, December 15.
Cade M. Austin wore handcuffs and shackles as he sat next to his public defender, Bryan Galloway, during the preliminary hearing, Tuesday morning in 1st District Court.
Outside the courtroom, Galloway said he wasn’t surprised by the judge’s ruling since the burden of proof is lower for preliminary hearings compared to a trial.
“At that point a lot more evidence is going to be presented from the defense and likely from the state which will address specifically what Mr. Austin’s intentions were, on that day,” said Galloway. “What intent he had at the point he reached for his gun and things such as that.”
“The state will have to carry the burden, a quite high burden, to show that he actually intended to kill somebody on that day. Given, that is what they have charged him with. That burden is going to be much more difficult for them to achieve at the point we get to trial than it was in today’s hearing.”
Austin was reportedly the driver of a Pontiac Sunfire, northbound on US-91 when he ran off the road, striking a gas line and coming to a stop in a bar pit. According to prosecutors, he then brandished a handgun and exchanged gunfire with an EMT who arrived on the scene to treat him.
One of those paramedics, assistant fire chief Jeremy Hunt, who is also a reserve police officer with the North Park Police Department, took the witness stand during Tuesday’s hearing. He testified how he became nervous and un-holstered his own .40 caliber handgun when Austin refused to get out of the car, while fidgeting with something under his sweatshirt. He became emotional as he described seeing Austin pull a 9 mm handgun from his waistband.
“I knew that if that gun made it to the window someone was going to die, either me or my partners,” testified Hunt. He explained how he then aimed his own gun into the car, in the direction of Austin’s chest, and fired. He said he couldn’t remember who shot first, but the two men exchanged several rounds as Hunt moved behind the back of the car.
Austin continued to wave the gun around inside the vehicle while drinking alcohol from a bottle. He was later pulled from the car by SWAT team members after losing consciousness. He was transported to a hospital by ambulance and treated for gunshot wounds to the chest and right shoulder.
State attorney Spencer Walsh said investigators later found the defendant’s gun in the passenger-side of the car. They believe he fired at least eight rounds.
Austin did not testify during the hearing. Later outside the courtroom, Galloway said he expects the defendant will take the witness stand if the case goes to trial.
“We have had conversations with regards to the events of that day. It was traumatic for him as well and he in fact suffered serious injuries and I’m probably not going to get into specifically how he will testify at trial, but I anticipate he will testify.”
Austin is being held without bail in the Cache County Jail. He is charged with two counts of attempted murder, both first-degree felonies and four misdemeanors including driving under the influence, interfering with an arresting officer, reckless driving and having an open container inside a vehicle. He was ordered to appear again in court February 29.
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