On Defending Yourself In A World Where Sad Prosecutors Write Books Instead Of Keeping Their Communities Safe

by Travis Mateer

On Sunday afternoon a person in Missoula used lethal force against a burglar who reportedly refused to stop his criminal activity despite being warned by the person inside the home. The result is Patrick Shemorry got himself shot and killed.

The article linked above places Shemorry, geographically, in the Spokane Valley before arriving in Missoula, but a Zoom Chron reader sent me this link about what Shemorry was up to in 2009. From the link:

A local real estate agent who has admitted to hiring a man to kill his wife was sentenced today in United States District Court to federal prison time.

Patrick Scott Shemorry, 28, of Charlottesville, pleaded guilty in September to one count of murder for hire causing interstate travel with the promise of payment. Today in District Court, the defendant was sentenced to 114 months of incarceration and three years of supervised release thereafter.

“Mr. Shemorry’s actions in trying to kill his wife were both meticulous and chilling.” United States Attorney Timothy J. Heaphy said today. “Once he made the decision to have his wife killed, the defendant stopped at nothing to achieve that goal. Today, he was justly punished for that terrible, criminal decision.”

In this case the prosecutor put this man in prison, but he didn’t stay there for the duration of time you might think, based on the serious nature of his crime. Unfortunately there is NOTHING unusual about this, as this Deep Dive episode with Nikki Goeser clearly shows.

Nikki Goeser didn’t have her gun on her to protect her from the obsessed stalker when he entered the restaurant and shot her husband in front of her. To understand how this psychopath could actually be OUT OF PRISON in 5 years, listen to the episode. The criminal justice system is fucked.

Since the criminal justice system is fucked, it makes sense even the prosecutors get impacted by the trauma of it all. And that’s where our literate County Attorney, Kirsten Pabst, comes in with a new book I CANNOT WAIT to get in the mail.

In the wake of a number of brutal and vicious crimes in Missoula County that deeply affected law enforcement and prosecutors, Missoula County Attorney Kirsten Pabst developed a program that deals with what she termed ‘secondary trauma’ to help them deal with and recover from the effects of such prosecutions.

That effort, which she shared with the National District Attorney’s Association, has resulted in a new book entitled ‘Thriving Through Chaos; Survival Gear for Criminal Justice Professionals’.

I’m glad to see Kirsten Pabst taking a firm hold over her office’s narrative by describing it as THRIVING through the chaos of…Missoula? Is Missoula really so full of chaos that it’s required a whole book to other prosecutors across the nation? I won’t contest Pabst’s depiction, since I’ve seen the chaos resulting from the failure of the entire carrot/stick spectrum of incentives and consequences, but I’m not sure other elected officials, or those in the private sector, will appreciate the depiction, since chaos isn’t really good for business or getting reelected.

Back when Pabst was feeling the heat of national scrutiny over her role in Missoula’s handling of sexual assault cases, control of the narrative was NOT a luxury this prosecutor enjoyed. Here’s an example of the reverberations a journalist by the name of Katie Baker continued making two years after the investigation wrapped up (emphasis mine):

Missoula, Mont., was rocked in 2012 by an unprecedented United States Department of Justice investigation that found the County Attorney’s Office badly mishandled sexual assault cases.

But just two years later, a former prosecutor who was deeply involved in the troubled office may be in line to take it over.

Kirsten Pabst says she’s running for county attorney to bring the Missoula office “back in line with community values” including “compassion for victims,” after its reputation was badly tarnished by almost three years of highly publicized sexual assault scandals and the subsequent federal probe.

Even though this article references a FEDERAL probe, I’m not sure the Feds ultimately got to do the investigation, or, if they did, old Fred didn’t make it easy. Here’s more from the article, and more of MY emphasis:

Pabst is one of just two candidates, both Democrats, running to replace current Missoula County Attorney Fred Van Valkenburg, who has been battling the Department of Justice ever since it announced a three-pronged federal investigation in May 2012 into how Missoula’s County Attorney’s Office, police department, and the University of Montana handle sexual assault cases.

But Pabst, who served as Van Valkenburg’s chief deputy from 2006 to 2012, may be a hard sell to Montanans shocked by the findings of the Justice Department report, which found that “women consistently told us that Deputy County Attorneys treated them with indifference or disrespect, and frequently made statements to women victims, advocates, and the public diminishing the seriousness of sexual violence and minimizing the culpability of those who commit it.”

My emphasis in the first paragraph is to highlight how the investigation was one prong short of a fork, so to speak, by leaving out the Sheriff’s Office. I think this was a big missed opportunity, considering words like “indifference” and “disrespect” can be applied to at least one case I’m aware, which was investigated by the Sheriff’s Office.

To conclude this post I’m going to uncomfortably agree with Fred Van Valkenburg under the principle of “it takes one to know one”. From the link (emphasis mine):

Van Valkenburg, who is fighting the Department of Justice’s investigation (though the local police and university have accepted the report’s findings), dismissed Pabst’s recent attempts to distance herself from his tenure.

“I don’t take her statements about ‘it’s time to move the County Attorney’s Office in a new direction,’ as anything more than political rhetoric calculated to help her get elected,” Van Valkenburg told BuzzFeed. 

As chief criminal deputy, Pabst was free to establish any policy she thought she was appropriate in the criminal division, he said. “She was an integral part of the management of this office for over five years.”

When Fred is right it’s because Right Said Fred. Get it?

Ok, clearly it’s time to step away from the computer, but not before suggesting you visit my about page and drop me a donation if you appreciate this content.

Thanks for reading!

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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