Charge withdrawn in courthouse white-powder scare, for now

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WATERVILLE — The suspect in October’s white powder scare at the Douglas County courthouse got a reprieve this week when prosecutors withdrew the criminal charge, awaiting evidence tests.

Election workers found an unidentified white powder in a ballot envelope Oct. 24, allegedly sent by Howard Allen Lane, 66, of Waterville. The discovery led to the evacuation and a one-day closure of the courthouse, and medical checkups for four exposed employees. The powder proved to be non-toxic.

Douglas County prosecutors charged Lane a week later with prohibited acts in a voting center, a rarely-cited misdemeanor offense. But deputy prosecutor Ethan Morris said he filed a motion to withdrew the case Monday, because materials gathered in the case by sheriff’s deputies still need to undergo laboratory testing.

The testing, expected to take some time, consists of “fingerprint and chemical comparison analysis of materials collected from the courthouse and from the defendant’s home,” Morris said Thursday.

The charge will be dismissed without prejudice — meaning it could be filed again, depending on the results of those tests. Such dismissals are fairly common in misdemeanor cases where lab tests are needed, such as DUIs, Morris said.