by Travis Mateer
It seems the credibility of law enforcement is suddenly a thing in Mineral County. Specifically, three Mineral County Sheriff Deputies, including one reject punted from Missoula County, have apparently triggered some unknown degree of doubt on past criminal cases. From the link:
A letter from a Missoula law firm alleges misconduct in the Mineral County Attorney’s Office, saying the office withheld relevant evidence in multiple prosecutions, a claim backed up by at least one judge’s ruling.
The letter, sent by the Reep, Bell and Jasper P.C. law office on Monday, alleges prosecutors in the Mineral County Attorney’s Office mishandled cases by omitting required disclosures during the criminal justice process, prompting defendants to enter guilty pleas when all relevant evidence hadn’t been considered.
“This error by the Mineral County Attorney’s Office impeded its citizens’ rights to make a fully informed decision about whether to proceed to trial,” the letter says. It points to the involvement of three Mineral County Sheriff’s deputies, Shawn Visintin, David Kunzelman and Patrick Nobles, asking that all Mineral County cases involving the deputies be reevaluated.
To the outsider, this article is very confusing. Even from my somewhat insider position, I get the sense some seriously compromised stuff has gone down. Maybe putting a few of these names into a broader context of recent cases, like the Rebekah Barsotti case, could be helpful.
Let’s begin with this guy:
Lance Jasper is an attorney in Missoula who strangely showed up at the Mineral County Commissioner hearing last November, the one where Rebekah Barsotti’s mother, Angela Mastrovito, began dismantling the false impression a real search was taking place for her daughter, and not a cover-up.
I finally spoke with Mr. Jasper a few months ago because I really wanted to know what he was up to. After a few unreturned calls, a promise to write about his stonewalling did the trick. Lance Jasper explained to me he was just showing up to encourage Sheriff Toth to ask for outside assistance. Jasper claimed he did this because he knew Toth’s Office wasn’t up to the task.
Also, Lance Jasper was present at the Johnny Lee Perry Coroner’s Inquest, but I’m not sure in what capacity.
Moving on, the Missoulian article provides a little more context about WHY some cases might be compromised.
Jasper’s letter came after a court order last week ruling that the Mineral County Attorney’s Office didn’t make a timely disclosure in a criminal case, which prompted a Missoula judge to dismiss the case altogether.
“Timely disclosures are required for due process, and they ensure fair trials,” Missoula County District Judge Leslie Halligan wrote in the order filed on June 8.
The Mineral County Attorney’s Office declined to comment on the matter.
The order says the prosecutors erred in a criminal case by not noting Deputy David Kunzelman’s termination from the Missoula County Sheriff’s Office in 2013.
The bouncing of a Sheriff Deputy like David Kunzelman from one jurisdiction to another, then not disclosing that fact, is what seems to be raising credibility issues. The movement of personnel from jurisdiction to jurisdiction is very similar to what happens to cases, making accountability more difficult. Is that the point?
It wasn’t so much this guy failed his exam, it’s the fact the Mineral County Attorney’s Office didn’t disclose that little fact (emphasis mine)
Gibson was accused of obstructing Kunzelman by resisting arrest and assaulting the deputy in August 2021. Sometime in late April or early May of this year, the state was notified Kunzelman was terminated as a reserve deputy by the Missoula sheriff’s office in 2013.
He was terminated after his supervisor was notified Kunzelman had reportedly cheated on his entrance exam to become a reserve deputy back in 2006.
The Mineral County Attorney’s Office didn’t disclose information about Kunzelman’s termination to Gibson or his attorney. The defense team learned about it on June 1 through a third party, and emailed the state asking for a disclosure in court, the order stated.
Mineral Deputy County Attorney Debra Jackson responded by saying she didn’t know about any criminal charges against Kunzelman, but didn’t address the question posed to her about his employment record. She also didn’t acquire the deputy’s personnel record as requested, according to the order.
I put Mineral Deputy County Attorney Debra Jackson in bold because she BOLDLY asked one of the other three Deputies under scrutiny here, Patrick Nobles, all about the indiscretions that led to HIS termination.
And in what context did Debra Jackson ask Patrick Nobles those questions? In the David Barsotti domestic abuse case, of course, in which Patrick Nobles was the arresting officer.
If the amount of cases impacted by this legal shit show are accurate, Lance Jasper’s law office should be VERY busy.
Jasper estimates at least 10 defendants have been affected by conduct similar to what Gibson experienced, but said that number might grow.
The letter doesn’t detail what behavior by Visintin and Nobles is prompting the request for disclosures, but it does accuse Nobles of indiscretion and dishonesty “for which he was fired.”
I think there is going to be more to come on this one, and some of the potential consequences could be significant, so stay tuned and thanks for reading!
Excellent reporting! This is stuff that needs ferreting out, and that people want/need to know about. The government (prosecution) withholding material evidence is a horrid and all too common practice that produces thousands of wrongful convictions each year. Exposing this stuff also ultimately helps to protect the right to impartial criminal trial juries by attenuating the presumption of credibility the public generally affords police officers, particularly when a defendant doesn’t testify, or does testify but has a prior criminal conviction record or is otherwise ‘deviant.’
Many years ago I worked with Lance Jasper when he was with Paoli Law Offices. His family is from the Superior area, and some of his clients are from the area. His involvement doesn’t surprise me at all. I haven’t spoken with him in decades, but in our younger years, I had a good impression of him as an trustworthy person. For what it’s worth, I think his involvement is a good thing.
Bouncing of deputies/officers from one jurisdiction to another to cover up alleged misconduct sounds very much like the Roman Catholic Church practice of sending a priest from one parish where allegations of child abuse have been made against him to another where he is unknown. In both cases, it is a matter of abusing the “flock” and trusting in higher-ups to deprive the underlings of accurate information. The truth, however, cannot be squelched and smothered forever. Sooner or later, it will come out to be exposed in the full light of day.
Good work, Travis.
Exactly what I was thinking when I read this, too.
Great question! Here is another great question. How does an estranged husband manage to obtain a Personal Representative status of a wife’s estate on or around May 19th, 2022 when said wife was not declared deceased at that time?
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