Pabst Hides Behind Reasonable Person Standard To Explain Not Prosecuting Budding Psychopath Josh Paniagua

by William Skink

Last week NBC Montana ran three articles on Missoula County Attorney’s decision to not charge Josh Paniagua with the stabbing murder of Ben Mousso (article 1, article 2, article 3).

Let’s get right into the justification for NOT bringing charges against a budding psychopath who, after murdering Mousso, went on to threaten his mom, build a torture room for her, and forced a standoff with law enforcement where he lives, in Florence.

Here’s Pabst’s justification for non-prosecution:

Missoula County Attorney Kirsten Pabst explained it this way, “We are bound ethically to follow the law and can only file charges where probable cause is met and where we are likely to obtain a conviction.”

“We are looking at the reasonable person standard,” said Pabst.

Montana law specifically allows someone, in this case Paniagua, to use force, including deadly force, to prevent a robbery.

Here’s how that statute reads: 45-3-102.Use of force in defense of person. A person is justified in the use of force or threat to use force against another when and to the extent that the person reasonably believes that the conduct is necessary for self-defense or the defense of another against the other person’s imminent use of unlawful force. However, the person is justified in the use of force likely to cause death or serious bodily harm only if the person reasonably believes that the force is necessary to prevent imminent death or serious bodily harm to the person or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.

When Pabst talks about ethics and being bound by the law I want to puke.

Mousso’a mom, Aly Wilding, isn’t buying this legal justification. Here is her response from the article:

Wilding criticizes the law.

“There are murky sections. Here we have a case where they are talking about felonies involved. How can you be dealing drugs, which is an illegal act, then claim a legal protection to murder someone to protect your drugs?” she asked.

Damn good question. Can any drug dealer now claim legal protection to kill if they “reasonably believes that the conduct is necessary for self-defense”?

Pabst continues defending her office’s inexplicable actions:

Pabst explains prosecutors must look at it from both a subjective and objective viewpoint.

“It is important to know the person who is acting had a subjective fear for his or her own life. It is also objective in that fear has to reasonable, so if you or I were in the same situation we would have the same fear. That is to prevent people from over-reacting and using their own fear as justification for something else” she said.

And Wilding continues accurately de-mystifying this legalese bullshit:

But Wilding believes the message is clear. Tell investigators you are reasonably afraid, and you can kill and not face a judge. She asked other attorneys, in both Montana and Washington, to weigh in.

Wilding said, “They said that (Missoula County’s) decisions were wrong. That it made no sense that they were not charging the men in the car, that they were not charging homicide.”

Wilding is right, it doesn’t make any sense, unless something else is going on here.

Is there something else going on here?

If it was JUST this case, that would be bad enough, but it’s not just this case.

Around the same time Ben Mousso was murdered, Sean Stevenson was murdered by Johnny Lee Perry at the Poverello Center. Similarly to the Mousso murder, authorities claim Perry was justified in using lethal force–strangulation, in this case–to defend himself against Stevenson.

Pabst has not publicly commented on the non-prosecution of Sean Stevenson’s killer, Johnny Lee Perry.

So what is going on here? Is there some unspoken reason authorities have for protecting violent killers like Perry and Paniagua?

If there is a reason, the families deserve to know. Instead it seems what these families are getting from the Missoula County Attorney’s office is damage control.


About Travis Mateer

I'm an artist and citizen journalist living and writing in Montana. You can contact me here: willskink at yahoo dot com
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8 Responses to Pabst Hides Behind Reasonable Person Standard To Explain Not Prosecuting Budding Psychopath Josh Paniagua

  1. TC says:

    Last 2 posts were spot on!!! I believe the Pabst charging philosophy relates back to gentrification. This is a process that goes back years. It starts (somewhat) with Buchanan’s statement that she was told by Monied Developers that Missoula had to address the homeless down town. We then saw the not so subtle shift of homeless from Downtown to West Broadway. Now that Engem/Buchanan have their gentrification visions set on W.Broadway to Russell I believe we will see homeless once again shifted to not offend outside money interests.
    I believe Pabst fits in by uncharging murderers. It is an easier sell to Tourists,Relocations , and Developers to portray these incidents as “one off” events that just escalated to require self defense. To accurately show these (and others) as MURDERS may scare off those the City is working so hard to attract.
    Just on opinion

    • I’ve had fleeting thoughts along these lines, but for some reason the way you lay it out in your comment–YES! that has to be a part of it.

      Ellen Buchanan has a quote somewhere I can’t seem to find (it may have been in a meeting I was attending) where she said a German investor walked around downtown (this was around 2012/2013) and told her if they didn’t do something about the homeless problem, big fish investors like him wouldn’t bite.

      2013 was the year Caitlin Copple introduced the do not sit, sleep, lie ordinance that blew up in her face when the ACLU threatened to sue. from my understanding, Engen got her to sponsor the ordinance to appease downtown businesses, but like the shifty character he is, by getting Copple to do the dirty work it was her, not him, who dealt with the blowback.

      she left town soon after.

  2. TC says:

    That was the exact Buchanan statement I was referring to (couldn’t find either). It really started the shift. Copple’s ordinance, designated downtown policing, slanted bus stops, etc. I also heard from multiple independent foresters that the trees around the Courthouse did not need removal. It was suggested that they provided shelter/shade to homeless therefore were removed to move homeless out. All of these things, though never collated or admitted to, had obvious intent.
    Also remember that Pabst quit her DA job to represent the UM QB accused of rape. This seemed like an attempt to whitewash all that was being exposed by Krakuer. Couldn’t have out of staters scared away from sending their kids (and high tuition) to UM.
    Again it all seems like there is lots of cover to attract that sweet, sweet cash!

  3. Djinn&Tonic says:


    *My best Jersey accent…LOL

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