Mineral County Is At War With Itself, Assisted By A Law Firm Specializing In Money Shakedown Schemes For Badges Across Western Montana

by Travis Mateer

In yesterday’s post I buried the lede, but not today. Today I’m going to say, right here at the top, that Ryan Funke’s Sheriff’s Office released the female suspect they detained before the St. Regis shootout WITHOUT notifying the County Attorney’s Office. I confirmed this with Deputy County Attorney, Wally Congdon, after I knocked on his door in Missoula and asked him about his cows.

This act by Funke’s Sheriff’s Office is hard to believe for those who understand how a local government is supposed to function, and it’s the detail that got the attention of the Shoshone County Sheriff’s Office last month when I spoke with a Captain about what I had discovered. The Captain assured me he would pass along my information to the Shoshone County Sheriff.

The hero narrative I challenged last month surrounding the law enforcement + civilian response to the armed robbery suspect–who took, then shot, a hostage before being gunned down in the street by dozens of badges–is being used again by the lawyer escalating the Mineral County war with his Hammer of Mandamus, Lance Jasper.

Below is the recording of the April 14th County Commissioner meeting where Lance Jasper took to the podium to express his embarrassment that the Commissioners haven’t done more to celebrate the badges and civilians who were present at the Travel Center on the day of the shootout. Jasper’s comments begin at the 1:07:20 mark of the video:

If you listen to Jasper’s comments you will hear him give his suggestions on what he thinks should happen, including MORE recognition of the actions by law enforcement and civilians because apparently that community debrief, where the badges were definitely recognized for doing their jobs, wasn’t enough.

Lance Jasper also thinks letters should be sent to neighboring counties thanking them for their response. Does that include the neighboring IDAHO County Funke threw under the bus because of some alleged “disconnect”, which he mentioned at the community debrief meeting? I don’t know, but apparently Missoula is the model in Jasper’s mind for how to properly recognize its citizens for heroic actions.

Another suggestion from this man suing his home County, where his family is known to have a significant amount of influence in local politics, is Jasper’s call for an INDEPENDENT investigation into a culture of fear that supposedly emanates from Mineral County Commissioners and the County Attorney’s Office.

Who would do the investigation? Jasper didn’t specific, so I called him on Wednesday and left a message, but I haven’t heard anything back. Maybe that’s because I’m on to Jasper’s law firm and their desire to go after County money, like they did in Missoula over parity pay, leading to this:

Roughly two months after settling a wage claim with Missoula County sheriff’s deputies, county commissions on Tuesday approved a $4.4 million general obligation bond to cover the judgment.

“We settled at $3.4 million but encountered an additional $500,000 in employment related taxes and benefits surrounding the wage claim,” said Andrew Czorny, the county’s chief financial officer. “It includes some of the costs of issuance.”

Commissioners in June reluctantly approved the $3.4 million settlement stemming from the wage claim brought by current and prior deputies with the Missoula County Sheriff’s Department.

It’s not just Missoula County in the recent litigation crosshairs of Reep, Bell & Jasper, the controversy in LAKE County over public law 280 is ALSO a Reep, Bell & Jasper affair. I’ll provide a quote below (with my emphasis) after screenshots of this court documentation (PDF):

The State of Montana, represented by Crowley Fleck PLLP, responded Dec. 12 to Lake County’s lawsuit seeking reimbursement for costs incurred from Public Law 280 by seeking dismissal of the complaint. 

In its 19-page motion, filed Monday in the 20th Judicial District Court, the State maintains that because Lake County consented to participation in the agreement in 1963, and as a result, agreed to its related costs, and because it now has the ability to withdraw from the agreement, articulated in House Bill 656 passed by the Legislature in 2021, the court should dismiss the complaint. 

The same legislation says, “the state shall reimburse Lake County for assuming criminal jurisdiction annual to the extent funds are appropriated by the Legislature,” and appropriated $1 from the general fund.

While this may all sound very complicated, legally speaking, let me boil it down to one word: MONEY! Because that, I believe, is primarily what all this Reep, Bell & Jasper litigation is about.

Now, with all these legal/money games firmly established, let me pull back and pivot in a way you might not expect to say that these parasitic lawyers are simply exploiting a REAL problem, and that’s the impact on law enforcement from budgets weakened by things like Tax Increment Financing, combined with having to fight a drug war, plus being demonized by national media over people snapping from culture war conditioning, all while politicized County Attorneys (and complicit Sheriffs) rationalize the revolving door and non-prosecutions turning our streets into dangerous dystopias.

This is why I try to walk a line between calling for accountability for those in leadership positions, especially elected ones, while maintaining a level of sympathy for the boots-on-the-ground people dealing with the slow motion collapse of societal norms. Because that shit sucks.

I’ve reached out to some of the entities about the shenanigans playing out across Montana jurisdictions because they have terrible consequences for people seeking justice. Just ask Angela Mastrovito, the mother of Rebekah Barsotti, who continues to experience unbelievable levels of harassment and legal disenfranchisement for daring to ask why her daughter’s estranged husband, David Barsotti, was NEVER considered a suspect by Mineral County Sheriff, Mike Toth, after her disappearance and “accidental” river death, which just happened to be quite lucrative for the beneficiary of her insurance policy.

Already, some of my calls are bearing fruit, but not everything makes it to the digital pages of Zoom Chron, and for good reason. I don’t write to entertain, or for money. I write to understand what the fuck is going on in my own backyard.

If you would like to help my efforts, Travis’ Impact Fund (TIF) is one way, and the donation button at my about page is another.

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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2 Responses to Mineral County Is At War With Itself, Assisted By A Law Firm Specializing In Money Shakedown Schemes For Badges Across Western Montana

  1. Ted Hartman says:

    Sweet. Can’t wait for our taxes to go up because someone got their feelings hurt. Something about patterns and doing the same thing over and over.
    They sell quickrete at the lumber store in town. Add river water and harden up crybabies.

  2. Pingback: Joey Thompson’s Death Certificate Information Has Finally Been Released, Now What? | Zoom Chron Blog

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