March 31, 2020 – Secret Spirits founders Jonathan and Cindy Bray are back home in Alberta after being released from an Idaho jail. The Brays were released on their own recognizance following a March 19 court hearing in Coeur d’Alene after spending nearly a month in jail on charges of illegally selling alcohol to undercover agents. In addition, the court returned their Canadian passports and allowed the Brays to leave the country until their trial scheduled for July 15. (UPDATE: The trial has been rescheduled for August 10, 2020, according to court records.)
As previously reported, Idaho State Police arrested the Brays on February 24 at their storage unit in Coeur d’Alene, where the spirits importers had been storing bottles of whisky and shipping their Whisky Advent calendars to customers in the U.S. They are accused of telling undercover agents that they could not ship the bottles back to their home base in the Calgary area because of “trade disagreements” that made it easier to try and sell the whisky in Idaho. The were charged with illegally selling alcohol without a license and criminal conspiracy – charges that could bring a maximum sentence of ten years in prison.
Jonathan Bray declined an interview request while the case is still pending, but he and his wife have started a GoFundMe campaign to help cover their legal expenses. In a news release included with the GoFundMe campaign, they maintain their innocence while not addressing the state’s argument that they were not licensed to legally sell alcohol in the state of Idaho.
“Cindy and Jonathan claim that 100% of the product that they were re-directing to some of their customers had entered the U.S. legally and that all duties and taxes had been paid. This included the product that was sold to Idaho State Liquor Division undercover officers. The Brays claim that these products had been already customs and tax paid for other customers that subsequently cancelled their orders due to shipping delays before Christmas of 2019. They also claim that this transaction was the only in person exchange of product made by Jonathan and Cindy Bray to anyone in the U.S. or State of Idaho and was done so only on the basis that all taxes and duties had been paid.”
The Brays are currently in self-quarantine at home as ordered by Canadian officials because of the COVID-19 pandemic. In their request for assistance, they say the court case has left them with very limited resources.
“Everything has been impacted by this situation including our business and especially our financial situation for not only paying to fight this case but also for necessities that could include food, living expenses and anything else that we may need.”
The Brays are being represented by Coeur d’Alene attorney Joseph Sullivan, who has not responded to emails seeking his clients’ side of the case.
This story will be updated as necessary.
Editor’s note: As with all criminal cases in the U.S., defendants are presumed to be innocent until proven guilty at trial. This story was updated on July 9 with details on the postponement of the Brays’ trial until August 10, 2020.