Criminal Justice Turnover At The Top: What’s Going On?

by Travis Mateer

If what I heard over the weekend is true, the vicarious trauma that comes with prosecuting humans for breaking the law may finally have gotten to the woman leading the Missoula County Attorney’s Office, Kirsten Pabst. Or maybe something else has triggered the decision Pabst has allegedly made less than six months after securing her reelection.

I like this image of Pabst because it includes one of the men who has played a supporting role in her reign, and that’s former County prosecutor and current judge, Jason Marks. We’ll get to Marks and his lawyer wife in a moment. But first…

The man in uniform pictured above is Mike Colyer, the best damage-control placeholder around for the short-term job of interim police chief after Jaeson White announced his departure at the end of March. Why is Mike the best? Because he’s done it before, after the Engen-enabler, Mike Brady, left the top cop position. Also, he was one of four people mentioned by United States Attorney, Michael Cotter, after Missoula’s rape culture was supposedly all fixed up over a decade ago.

Here are some accolades from Cotter’s DOJ press release (emphasis mine):

Also, at the podium are four of Missoula’s community leaders who I have gotten to know very well over the last several years. I respect these men immensely. These leaders have shown great courage implementing necessary changes in sexual assault policies and training here in Missoula. They are “true agents of change” because each recognized that the old way of investigating sexual assault, was not the best way. Today, under new protocols, victims are heard, they are not blamed and they are no longer stereotyped. These 4 leaders worked together to ensure through new comprehensive policies implemented by Missoula PD, U of Montana, U of M PD that law enforcement and the University community will no longer fail victims of sexual assault of Missoula, but these new policies will benefit all victims and enhance public safety. Today, Missoula, as a community, is safer. I am proud to share this podium with:

John Engen, Mayor of the City of Missoula; Mike Brady, Chief of the Missoula Police Department; Mike Colyer, Captain of the Missoula Police Department; Royce Engstrom, President of the University of Montana.

I wonder if the man standing behind Pabst understands he’s supposed to evolve along with things like “new protocols” that hopefully include NOT blaming victims. I know of AT LEAST ONE County Attorney under Pabst who absolutely DOES NOT understand updated consent statutes, for example, and it’s not just because I believe things I’m told second-hand by a woman who has had to endure the antics of one little man on Pabst’s prosecution team.

Judge Marks is no longer on that team. Instead, he has been busy concocting a new form of judicial activism with an amazing maneuver that involves a time machine that, on the surface, appears to be just a death certificate. But the specifics regarding that amazing feat will have to wait for another post. Today I’m more interested in how echoes resonate between MISSOULA County and MINERAL County, where the Jasper family has serious clout.

Lance Jasper has had his time under the Zoom Chron lens because his Mandamus move helped peel back the peel on the figurative banana representing criminal justice in Mineral County. And who is taking a direct hand in helping with this Mandamus assault on Mineral County? Jasper’s colleague, Jordan Kilby, who is married to Judge Marks. Should we keep peeling?

Mineral County, like Missoula County, has a former Sheriff who has gone dark. For Mike Toth, it’s because there’s a public court process playing out, along with a legally mandated requirement for him to participate, which he’s currently ignoring. What about MISSOULA’S former Sheriff, T.J. McDermott? Could there be some kind of process playing out behind the scenes? I wonder.

Also, in Mineral County, the legal drama currently pitting the Sheriff’s Office against the County Attorney’s Office amidst a Constitutional crisis was precipitated by the exit of County Attorney, Ellen Dononhue. I couldn’t find any official record of Donohue leaving her office, so here’s something from 2017, when Donohue first took the attorney position. From the link (emphasis mine):

Ellen Donohue is the new Mineral County Attorney, replacing Marcia Boris, who left at the end of last summer. Donohue was hired for the position by a selection committee, and will work for the rest of Boris’ term, which ends in 2018.

Currently she’s renting a place, but may buy a home in the future, “it just depends on how well the community likes me. I plan on sticking around for a while, but I’ve never held an elected position before. It will be up to the voters to decide,” she said.

Were there warning signs that Donohue wasn’t up to the task? I’d say, and that’s because of what Ellen says in the next paragraph:

One thing that has surprised Donohue is the high number of felony cases in Mineral County, given the size of the population. There were 92 cases in 2016, compared to 100 in the Anaconda-Deer Lodge area, which boosts a population of nearly 10,000. But, she understands that a number of those cases stem from Interstate 90, which stretches across the county.

Yes, there is an imbalance between the resources tiny communities along Interstate 90 can deploy when violent criminals botch an armed robbery in Idaho and end up taking a hostage at the Travel Center in St. Regis, Montana. Here is the best local report of what transpired (emphasis mine):

It all started when the Montana Highway Patrol told the Mineral County Sheriff’s Office of a vehicle involved in an armed robbery in Idaho.

Mineral County Undersheriff Wayne Cashman reports that around 11:30 am, the sheriff’s office received a report of a car that was abandoned at the sewer plat in St. Regis.

The caller reported they watched the suspects go to a local hotel, with a woman staying at the hotel while a man went to the travel center.

The woman was put into custody by one deputy, while others went to make contact with the man at the travel center.

When the deputies made contact with the man, he reportedly pulled out a weapon and took a hostage.

The man did not follow any orders to put the gun down, and at one point, he pushed the hostage down, shooting them twice, according to Cashman.

The Mineral County Sheriff’s Office is DAMN LUCKY the hostage wasn’t killed after the decision was apparently made to approach the suspect inside the travel center.

I know some details about what happened because I drove out to St. Regis Saturday evening with my Mineral County investigation partner after news of this incident broke . Here’s a picture I took:

I assume the water on the pavement came from washing the blood away. The suspect died outside, but the woman we spoke with at a local motel indicated there was a lot of blood INSIDE the travel center, presumably from the injured hostage.

The woman also told us she took shelter with her child and traveling companion inside the public bathroom. Her car was shot twice in the parking lot and is now considered evidence, so they were waiting for a family member to drive over from Spokane to get them to their final destination, which was most certainly NOT St. Regis, Montana.

As big leadership changes happen in Missoula and Mineral County, I hope new forms of collaboration can emerge after the acrimony settles down. Because if fruit can do it, so can we!

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UPDATE: a more recent Missoulian article includes the latest information, including what happened to all FOUR people in the get-away car. I’m glad Sheriff Ryan Funke provided a clarifying statement to local media in order to better educate the public on the risk they face.

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Week In Review: March 13-17

by Travis Mateer

Best episode yet? I think it is. And one of the people I’d like to thank for inspiring this episode is award winning gentrifier, Ellen Buchanan!

Did I honor Buchanan’s contributions in this week’s review of local headlines? You bet I did! Because timing is everything–well, ALMOST everything. Money ALSO plays a big part in everything, as this upcoming week shall surely remind us.

Buchanan’s award was given to her by someone from a bank and someone from a construction company. Is that not hilarious? From the link (emphasis mine):

The award, co-presented by Farmers State Bank and Jackson Contractor Group, recognizes a Missoulian who exemplifies the mission of the association through commitment to maintaining a healthy business community and enhancing the quality of life and quality of place for visitors and residents alike.

Buchanan is the Director of the Missoula Redevelopment Agency, where for two decades she has been the behind the scenes leader guiding the creation of Mary Avenue’s extension across the Southgate Mall parking lot, the transformation of a railroad property into the MRL park, and the redevelopment of a shuttered KMART into the South Crossing with restaurants and retail spaces. She helped with the creation of the Missoula Midtown Association as one of the founding volunteers who saw the potential in organizing businesses and residents to have a voice in Missoula’s future.

The emphasis is premium-grade bullshit intended to create the illusion that our local cabal actually desires local input on their great transformative schemes for our valley. If that was true, making public comment at MRA board meetings wouldn’t be so difficult.

Next week it’s going to be interesting to see what wins in the information war’s competition for your attention: bank dominos falling, Hunter’s laptop lawsuit, or the claim of an impending arrest of Donald Trump.

I hope you pay THIS little virtual space some attention next week because I’ll be writing about another big change in leadership that might be announced soon here in Missoula, if the rumor is true, and I have every reason to think it is.

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Thanks for reading/listening!

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BONUS POST: The Best Time To Give Public Money To Banks Is Now!!!

by Travis Mateer

The big houses we build for money commonly known as BANKS are apparently not immune to the spreading insanity of wokeness currently colonizing the minds of liberally-inclined humans in this slowly collapsing nation commonly known as AMERICA. Don’t believe me? Here’s the proof:

Despite bank runs and larger solvency concerns within the financial system, and despite local headlines tracking the continued stratospheric rise of home prices, Ellen Buchanan and Company think NOW is a GREAT time to give over $700,000 in Tax Increment Funding to First Security Bank. From the second link:

The Missoula Redevelopment Agency’s board of commissioners on Thursday approved $700,000 in tax increment to make a number of public improvements alongside the bank’s private investment.

That includes $380,000 to deconstruct rather demolish two old buildings, allowing for materials to be salvaged and reused. It also includes $140,000 in right of way improvements such as public sidewalks, landscaping and the burying of power lines.

Once the project is finished, taxes on the property will more than doubled to around $280,000 annually. That funding will be further reinvested into other public projects throughout the Midtown area.

If you haven’t detected the sarcasm yet, let me clearly state I think the amount and timing of this handout of public money to a private bank is fucking nuts. In fact, I think it’s so fucking nuts that I virtually joined the board meeting on Thursday to make public comment. Was I successful? Nope, despite trying BOTH the video link AND the livestream link, I was NOT able to provide public comment, so instead I recorded my comment while the bullshit justification for this handout droned on in the background:

Earlier in the week I actually had the pleasure of sitting next to Ellen Buchanan at City Club, where the land reduction scheme for Higgins Avenue was being discussed. While I covered this in my illumination of multi-modal insanity article, I didn’t fully understand at the time WHY the owner of Betty’s Divine was so aligned with the city’s plan. Well, this article about her husband’s business makes it MUCH clearer what her motivation is.

If you want to puke in your mouth a little bit, here’s another article obnoxiously describing Missoula in the most insufferable way possible, since it smacks so obviously of gentrification (emphasis mine):

[I]t was at the party of a mutual friend where Matt McQuilkin and Jim Chapman first saw a hole in the Missoula coffee market and had the idea to start their own coffee roastery together. “It was one of the few plans made over beers that actually comes to fruition,” says McQuilkin.

“I always pulled coffee from out of town because I couldn’t find what I wanted in town,” says Chapman. “I knew I wanted to have a part in the flavor development and not just sell what other people did.”

Chapman and McQuilkin hatched their plan in the fall of 2009, and by the following summer, Black Coffee Roasting Company was born, offering organic coffees to Missoula’s burgeoning coffee connoisseur community. The city is a prime contender for a quality coffee scene. Missoula is a liberal, artsy, outdoorsy, university town of 60,000 nestled in a Rocky Mountain valley. Subarus and Toyotas line the streets, wielding bumper stickers proclaiming “Keep Missoula Weird” and “Know Your Farmer.” Some people joke that Missoula isn’t really part of Montana at all.

If you want a silver lining (to hedge against inflation), today is a day our totally healthy and well-adjusted culture promotes a greater-than-normal intake of alcohol because nothing screams coerced happiness like getting fall-down drunk! Do ya feel me, Butte?

Anyway, if you enjoy the consistent articles every week day at 7am, and the weekly podcast, and the occasional song about Jesus, then please consider making a donation at my about page. You can also take a look at what’s coming by clicking this link.

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The Danger Of The Christian Savior Complex

by Travis Mateer

Is the world for kids essentially a series of shitty “choices” between which groups of fucked up adults they’re going to get abused and exploited by? Well, this post is about the danger of the adults who operate under a Christian savior complex, probably to leverage sexual favors or make money, if I had to speculate on the motivations.

Let’s take the charge against JD Partain of surreptitiously recording his adopted daughter undressing in her room, an act this Christian man confessed to before changing his tune. While I’ve read the charging documents, and can safely assume the main purpose of this act was sexual gratification, one can’t discount the possibility that the content of the recording, which has monetary value, wasn’t created for the additional benefit of making money.

Some “alleged” sexual predators place themselves at multiple access points, like the young man who has a trial coming up next month, Jordan Graves. While this Missoulian article only mentions the fact Graves was a public school teacher, this NBC Montana article references the church groups he was known to participate in (emphasis mine):

Missoula County prosecutors charged Jordan Graves with sexual assault and sexual intercourse without consent, both felonies.

Graves worked for Missoula County Public Schools and attended church groups in Missoula before leaving the state in 2012.

Court records show a former student went to investigators last August and reported a sex assault that happened when she was in high school in Missoula in 2011.

It’s very difficult for me to read about the “opportunities” some Christian organizations claim exist among marginalized populations without thinking first and foremost about predation and exploitation. Here is some language from the link that describes the GOD opportunity for youth in the criminal justice system (emphasis mine):

On any given year in the US there are over 740,000 teens referred to the juvenile justice system, some of whom will be confined to a corrections facility, others who will be diverted into a community-based alternative, and many who will be court sanctioned to probation. The sad fact is that, for our young people who are actively incarcerated, a detention center may be the only place they feel safe, have reliable meals, are sober, or are not facing constant trauma. For our justice involved young people who continue to stay in their communities, many continue to face adverse experiences such as relational trauma, racial trauma, community violence, and lack of access to basic needs. It is during these moments of crisis that our justice involved young people are most open to uncovering God’s story of hope in their lives.

Now, here’s a completely different opportunity. Are you an electrician? Because, if you are, you could involve yourself RIGHT NOW by helping out the LifeGuard Group with their electricity needs.

What I find fascinating about this Facebook post from the LifeGuard Group is how it directly contradicts something claimed JUST TWO MONTHS AGO about serving their first victim. From the link (emphasis mine):

Christmas came early for The LifeGuard Group, a Montana-based nonprofit organization that works to protect those in our communities against sexual exploitation and human trafficking.The five-year-old organization in mid-December welcomed the first person to its new LifeHouse, a place where rescued victims of human trafficking can stay, heal, and learn to begin a successful new life.“The LifeHouse was a pretty great Christmas present,” said Tami Hochhalter, who founded The LifeGuard Group with her husband Lowell.

So, which one is it, Lowell and Tami Hochhalter? Have you actually served your first victim of human trafficking or have you NOT yet served your first victim of human trafficking? This shouldn’t be a difficult question to answer.

An organization that uses best practices wouldn’t struggle with communicating basic facts to the public, like whether or not your organization has served a victim of trafficking or not. Other things organizations that follow best practices in this field wouldn’t do is hire family members, fail to do background checks on volunteers, or use the property for your kid’s wedding.

I started this year by publishing a letter sent to the LifeGuard group by a very courageous woman after her safety was compromised by Lowell’s dangerous lack of professionalism. Here it is again:

Why would an organization that has been burned by someone they hired NOT be more weary when soliciting assistance for their electrical needs? Well, maybe that public Facebook post on March 13th for an electrician is supposed to function more as a justification for why the LifeHouse isn’t open yet than it is to communicate actual electrical needs. But that’s just a hunch.

I had the opportunity to speak with a Christian complex’r this week who has met Lowell Hochhalter and is becoming more active in our community. This man is on my synchronicity radar, having recently come to Missoula from Moscow, Idaho, where the brutal slayings at 1122 King Road has received national attention. After my chat with him, though, I’m not sure how much more we will be speaking.

When the cameras are rolling, the attempt to gain access to vulnerable kids within the criminal justice system sounds just fine. Here’s a clip:

If this was JUST a ministry to youth while incarcerated, that would be one thing, but the scenario I’ve become familiar with involves getting an almost 18 year old with concerning demographic information OUT of incarceration by potentially addressing the critical component keeping this “youth” behind bars: a lack of housing.

Instead of just complaining about these, at best, well-intentioned Christian do-gooders, I’d like to offer an idea for a type of training that just popped into my head (maybe as a divine assignment). I’m calling this idea discernment bootcamp. Here’s how it would work.

For a modest percentage of the weekly tithing I could provide my insights as a former service provider of homeless services in order to increase the competency of do-gooders who act as easy marks for criminal elements when they lack this key tool. Don’t be a sucker of spiritual hucksters, I would cry out in earnestness before producing my ukulele and leading the congregation in song.

Before getting to my Jesus song, I’d like to give a shout-out to one final Christian complex’r who is saving the houseless with those Pallet sheds. Like so many influencers in this town who do things on the surface, Jim Hicks recently expressed his dream to change NOT the system that provides him souls to save with his sheds, but the name of the program. Here’s Hicks’ dream (emphasis mine):

Hicks said his goal is to eventually rename the TSOS the ‘Island of Hope’.

“This is just in my heart,” he said. “I just like to see that place called ‘Island of Hope’ as far as what is there, because our hope is they come (to the TSOS) they get some stability, they get the wraparound services, and they can then work on the issues they need to so that they can move forward. Our big picture is ‘street to shelter, to recovery to stability’. So that’s kind of the big picture from our end.”

Well, damn. What more can I say? How about this: Jesus ain’t happy with his flock in Zoom Town, so here’s a song that I hope goes a little further than a name change to bring some change to this sorry situation with God’s people.

Try BETTER y’all!

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Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for the Week in Review this Sunday!

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On Feeling Bad For Students In The Helena School System

by Travis Mateer

I used to feel bad for kids in the Helena school system because of a teacher and partisan hack by the name of Don Pogreba. This hack, who once lived and taught in Helena, operated a blog titled Intelligent Discontent–named after a quote from Eugene Debs–before he rebranded as the Montana Post.

It’s been almost exactly 2 years since Don “Pogie” Pogreba threw in the towel to embrace hypocrisy by taking a job at a PRIVATE school in Hawaii, something I documented in a good-riddance post at the time. So why am I mentioning Pogreba in THIS post? Well, because one of his pals in the Helena school system, Ryan P. Cooney, has some lovely opinions on the abuse survivor and celebrity brand, Paris Hilton. Here’s my initial Twitter exchange with Cooney:

I’m surprised Ryan Cooney has as much time to engage people on Twitter as he seems to have, since he’s an award-winning teacher in the Helena schools system. Also, he has AMAZING hair!

From the link (emphasis mine):

Ryan Cooney a teacher in Helena and son of former Lieutenant Governor Mike Cooney won the Global Educator of the Year over the weekend. 

The award issuer is the World Affairs Councils of America is the largest nonprofit grassroots organization in the US dedicated to educating and engaging the public on global issues.

Via twitter Cooney said, “Unbelievably honored. I love what I do and feel so fortunate to work with the best people, everyday. Thanks to the Montana World Affairs Council for the recognition and everything you do to support teachers and students. See you in Missoula soon!”

Why would Cooney be coming to Missoula? The article doesn’t specify a reason, so I’m assuming it’s just to receive the award or something. I’m hoping it’s NOT to start indoctrinating Missoula school kids the way I suspect Cooney’s pal, Don Pogreba, did during those long evenings teaching debate.

Here’s Cooney proudly claiming to know the partisan hack, Pogie. I have yet to receive an answer on whether or not Cooney has partied with Melissa Romano’s husband.

Since Ryan Cooney knows Don Pogreba so well, maybe he can tell me why I can’t seem to find any CURRENT evidence that Pogreba is still teaching at the Parker school. I found this about new faculty in the 2020-2021 school year, but the latest iteration of the directory no longer features Pogreba. What happened, Don?

If you can’t read the small print introducing Pogreba as new faculty, here it is:

Mr. Pogreba joined the Parker School ‘Ohana in 2020 after teaching for more than 20 years in Montana high schools. He holds two bachelor of arts degrees, one in English and another in secondary education/English-history from Carroll College in Montana. Mr. Pogreba has been named PLATO Philosophy Teacher of the Year, Montana Speech and Debate Coach of the Year, as well as a Distinguished Educator by Students in his previous district 15 times. Originally from Montana, Mr. Pogreba enjoys traveling and writing. He loves to see a new city for the first time and wander aimlessly for hours. Mr. Pogreba shares, “We have an almost infinite capacity to see what we can’t do; the role of a teacher must be to strip away those limits students impose upon themselves. I am deeply committed to rigor in the classroom, in writing, thinking, and discussing, because it is only when students accomplish things they never thought they could that they see truly what their possibilities are.”

With the rumors that Pogreba left behind in Montana, I’d think maybe he’d be more careful about talking about the things he wants to STRIP AWAY from students.

Oddly enough, it’s not Pogreba’s role as a debate coach I’ve suddenly become interested in. Instead it’s the hall-of-fame cowboy and Deputy County Attorney of Mineral County, Wally Congdon, who I’m curious about, since he was a debate coach at Hellgate in Missoula many years ago.

You might be wondering, how do I know this? I know this because a recent article about Wally’s Highlander cows clued me in to the fact a girl Wally used to teach is now all grown up and helping old Congdon with that Highlander herd. From the link (emphasis mine):

The manager of the ranch is Tracie McMillan who has been there for eight years. She has known the owner of the ranch, Wally Congdon, since 1977 when he was her debate coach at Hellgate High School in Missoula.

Since yesterday’s post was about the predation of private reform schools in the remote areas of Montana and Idaho, and since it was Cooney’s callous reaction to Paris Hilton’s written testimony submitted to Montana’s legislature about these types of schools that inspired THIS post today, I find it ironic to be so quickly pivoting to who is doing the teaching in PUBLIC schools in Montana.

If there’s a lesson here, kids, it’s the unfortunate reality that figurative wolves are EVERYWHERE, so be careful. And stay tuned, because when it comes to cowboy attorneys who love their cows, there is DEFINITELY more to come.

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