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Tuesday, March 28, 2017

The Paul Driggers Murder-For-Hire Case

     Paul Driggers knew that if he filed for divorce, his wife Janice (not her real name) would fight for custody of their children. Driggers knew that Janice, because of his background of crime which included a ten year stretch in prison, would win that battle. To solve his problem, the 53-year-old Idaho man came up with a plan to file for divorce without his wife knowing about it. The idea behind his plan involved winning the divorce suit through his uninformed wife's default.

     In February 2005, after creating a false mail drop address for himself and his wife in Post Falls, Idaho, Driggers traveled to Bannock County in the southern part of the state where he filed for divorce. Janice, oblivious to what he was up to, failed to respond to the court papers sent to the phony address. Through this scheme, Paul Driggers divorced his wife without her knowledge. Janice was also unaware that the judge had awarded Driggers full custody of their son and two daughters.

     Although divorced, Driggers and his clueless ex-spouse continued to live under the same roof as man and wife. In September 2005, after pleading guilty to hitting one of his daughters with a belt, the judge sentenced Paul Driggers to 180 days in jail. Shortly after his release, Driggers threatened Janice with a handgun. Because he was an ex-felon, the mere possession of the weapon was a crime. Drigger denied the allegation, and the prosecutor dropped the charges.

     In February 2006, after Janice learned from a social worker that she and the man she was living with had been divorced for a year, threw him out of the house. Because they had engaged in sex under the false pretense of marriage, she filed charges of rape. A judge eventually dismissed that case. Driggers, in an effort to recover some of his possessions that included a wall plaque that read: "Families are Forever" sued his ex-wife. He also filed a report with a county child protection agency accusing her of physically abusing their children. The agency responded by taking the children out of the home. With the children temporarily out of the house, Driggers made his big move. He asked a man he had met in prison if he know of someone who would kill his ex-wife.

     Early in April 2006, acting on his former prison associate's recommendation, Driggers called a man in Hayward, California named Matt Robinson and offered him $10,000 for the hit. Driggers said he would deposit $1,000 in Robinson's bank account to pay for his trip to northern Idaho where they would plan and carry out the contract murder. Robinson, having left Driggers with the impression he would be thinking over the offer, reported the solicitation to the Hayward police who hooked him up with the FBI. After meeting with FBI agents, Robinson agreed to help the feds by traveling to Idaho as an undercover murder-for-hire operative.

     On April 25, 2006, Driggers and Robinson met in a restaurant in Coeur d' Alene. They discussed, in addition to the murder, a number of criminal schemes including the manufacture of methamphetamine, and the counterfeiting of documents to be used in identify theft. Three months later, on July 21, Driggers drove his gold Jaguar onto a Lowe's parking lot in Coeur d' Alene. He was there to meet Robinson who was wired for sound. Driggers handed the man he thought would murder his ex-wife another $1,000. The murder-for-hire mastermind promised to pay Robinson the balance of the hit money in $500 monthly installments. Driggers also gave Robinson a photograph of Janice and a handmade map showing how to get to her house in Priest River. The map, carefully drawn and detailed, included suggested escape routes. In order to maintain contact with his hit man as the plot unfolded, Driggers had purchased a pair of walkie-talkies. He also instructed Robinson on how to dispose of the victim's corpse. This mastermind was leaving nothing to chance.

     Driggers, in explaining to Robinson that killing his ex-wife was the only way he could acquire custody of  his children, anticipated that the police would suspect him of having her murdered. "They don't like me," he said. "They hate me. They'd like to put a needle in my arm....We've already made some mistakes. I don't want to get hurt on this. The first three months of the investigation is going to be intense. They're going to check everything....I'm the green light, but you're driving the car. You have a couple of options. You can keep the money and go home. You can do it and get it done, or try to do it, and if it's too difficult, you can drop it."

     The following day, July 22, 2006, Driggers called Robinson and gave him the final go-ahead for the operation. Ten days later, FBI agents who had been keeping track of Driggers, arrested him on the charge of attempted murder-for-hire. When informed that his conversations with Robinson had been taped, Driggers surprised the arresting agents by insisting that he was innocent.

     From his Kootenai County Jail cell a week after being taken into custody, Driggers, referring to his ex-wife as a "vindictive schizophrenic," said this to a local newspaper reporter: "I'm the one who's really being abused. There's been such a climate of fear and paranoia in my case that any action I take to try and protect my property is determined as a move toward hurting my ex-wife, to physically hurting my ex-wife." A federal grand jury, three weeks after Drigger's press interview, indicted him for using interstate commerce to facilitate a murder-for-hire scheme.

     The Driggers murder trial got underway, in the federal court house in Coeur d' Alene, on January 3, 2007. The defendant, insisting that he was the true victim in the case, promised reporters that when jurors heard his side of the story, they would find him not guilty. But before he got the opportunity to defend himself on the stand, the jurors heard the conversation Matt Robinson had tapped in the Lowe's parking lot. After playing the two-hour recording, the government rested its case.

     On January 11, 2007, Driggers, wearing a raspberry colored blazer, climbed into the witness box with the intent of portraying himself as the victim. He had been so distraught over the possibility of losing custody of his children he had gone to bed every night under the influence of sleeping pills and booze. "It was hard to get out of bed in the morning because I'd always hear the voices of my children saying, 'Daddy, daddy, we want you to come home.' I lost the purpose of my life. I had no reason to  live."

     In addressing the issue of his murder-for-hire conversations with Matt Robinson, Driggers dismissed them as a "hypothetical" discussions in which he was merely exploring possible solutions to his "predicament." "There's a difference," he said, "between a statement and an agreement. I didn't want to kill her. I was upset about many things happening in my life."

     The jury, following a brief period of deliberation, found Paul Driggers guilty of attempted murder-for-hire. The verdict surprised no one. But the case wasn't over. Drigger's attorney, noting that a copy of his client's rap sheet had inadvertently found its way into the jury room, moved for a mistrial. The jurors were not supposed to know about the defendant's criminal history. Although only one juror actually looked at the document, the judge had no choice but to declare a mistrial.

     The following month, Driggers was tried again on the same evidence. The second jury, also requiring little time to deliberate, found him guilty as charged. The judge sentenced Paul Driggers to the maximum penalty allowed under federal law, a $17,000 fine and ten years in prison.


2 comments:

  1. Paul Driggers is part black due to the direct descendant of the original Driggers, Emmanuel Rodriguez, an African man.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Paul Driggers had three daughters.

    ReplyDelete