Montana’s Criminal Justice System Is An Embarrassment From Top To Bottom, Like How Evidence Is Handled

by Travis Mateer

What happens when a state’s Department of Justice becomes so inept, local jurisdictions, like Sheriff Offices, never have to worry about their own ineptitude getting seriously scrutinized? You get what we’re getting in Montana under the inept leadership of Austin Knudson. From the link (emphasis mine):

On Tuesday, though, my questions about Knudsen’s egregious behavior were finally answered: The Office of Disciplinary Counsel filed 41 charges of professional misconduct against Montana’s attorney general, largely centering on his interactions with the Supreme Court and his open, public and repeated defiance of court orders, including a “Hail-Mary” attempt to go before the U.S. Supreme Court.

While these are not criminal charges, they could be career-ending for Knudsen as a lawyer. A possible consequence is disbarment, and being an attorney in good standing is part of the state’s Constitutional requirements for the attorney general’s office.

The most egregious of these 41 charges includes refusing to return illegally collected evidence for months, even though he and his office were ordered to do so. The charges also include willfully and repeatedly refusing lawful orders. Surely, Knudsen’s office would have a hard time justifying such behavior from any defendant it faces: What happens if convicted felons simply refused to serve time in jail? Or if child molesters wanted to live in buildings that also housed a daycare?

How bad is it in this state? It’s bad enough that I delude myself into hoping some kind of FEDERAL oversight is possible. Yeah, right.

An entire book by Jon Krakauer was written about our broken criminal justice system JUST in Missoula, and JUST with some rape cases, and that was JUST focusing on CITY police and the University of Montana, NOT the Missoula County Sheriff’s Office.

Maybe that’s why I was inspired to cc Krakauer’s literary agent, along with that Wall Street Journal reporter, on an email I hope drives home the point I am done fucking around with unprofessional people who expect incredible people to believe fairytales about magical chokeholds.

I’m going to tell a story now, and I think it’s the first time I’ve told it here, and that’s what I learned on the day our former Mayor, John Engen, announced his candidacy for his hundredth term (fifth, actually).

I remember this day distinctly because I was present, physically, at Silver Park, around this time, watching Engen and his crew setting up.

I was disgusted because this location has John Engen literally facing the Poverello Center, which is located just across the river from Silver Park, and accessed often by Poverello clients via the California Street bridge where those assaults just happened.

I was ALSO disgusted because I knew something happened AT THIS VERY PARK not long before Sean Stevenson was assaulted, then euthanized by the Sheriff’s Office. Here’s a partial look at the case report to back up what I’m saying:

The California Street bridge is the route I took over the river and past the Poverello Center (my former employer) and THAT is where I spotted Johnny Lee Perry for the first time, the supposed perpetrator of Sean’s assault.

I stopped my bike and struck up a conversation with Johnny, asking if he’d take a walk, so we went by the spot that used to be a Mexican Restaurant (and TIF recipient) to discuss what happened to Sean.

When I told Johnny that I didn’t think he was solely responsible for the physical damage described to me by the family in the autopsy photos (which I have now seen), he gave me an explanation that was GIVEN TO HIM by a police officer, and that explanation was a claim that EMTs somehow DROPPED SEAN’S BODY off the gurney onto the ground.

Yeah, no. I checked with an actual professional after hearing this claim in 2021, and the equipment used simply wouldn’t allow for that to happen.

It’s too bad Johnny never got a chance to be more forthcoming about what happened in that men’s dorm on January 3rd, 2020, and that’s because he was shot and killed by the Missoula County Sheriff’s Office on August 29th, just 4 months after my conversation with Johnny, and less than 2 weeks after I released video footage of Johnny saying provocative things, which you can see at the end of this post.

My biking around town yesterday in-between emails cc’ing literary agents and a reporter who gets PAID to do this shit was quite prolific, and covered downtown, campus, and river trails.

I spoke with one person who was friend’s with Johnny, and upset at a recent Facebook reminder (which I confirmed are fucking horrible for me to), then I saw and chatted with a judge I think is decent, telling him LOTS, including the name of the guy at the state DOJ who is supposedly doing an investigation into local corruption.

Well, if Darrell’s “viewpoint” at the beginning of this post is an accurate depiction of an AG going legally berserker, then that spells trouble for family’s wondering how state entities, like crime labs, can fuck things up so badly, or how other methods of losing, compromising, or destroying evidence can be accomplished with relative ease.

I saw this first hand during the Lee Nelson murder trial where the clear mishandling of evidence and general sloppiness of Detective Guy Baker’s investigation was a big part of the now-convicted killer’s defense.

If such a thing as competent FEDERAL oversight existed, maybe relevant items in suspicious deaths could be located, like Sean’s cell phone, or a certain deceased woman’s computer, stuff like that.

Back in April I asked a question with the title of the following post, Have We Arrived At “Manifest Abuse of Discretion” Yet? If you can read that post, after reading this one, and still say no, then you clearly haven’t had the need for a competent investigation into tragically lethal circumstances.

And I pray you never do, especially here, in Montana.

If you appreciate my independent journalism, Travis’ Impact Fund (TIF) is one way to support it, and making a donation 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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