Montana Politics

Senator Barkus and the Amazing Technicolor Plea Agreement

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It’s hard to know what’s most offensive about the plea agreement reached between Senator Greg Barkus and Flathead County Attorney Ed Corrigan—the transparently political decision to delay its announcement until after the election or the scandalously generous terms afforded someone who put someone in a coma.

Politically, it’s perfectly clear that this plea agreement and delayed original trial were done to benefit Representative Rehberg, who might have had to answer some uncomfortable questions at trial.

More importantly, one has to wonder how long Montana can continue to be the laughingstock of the nation when it comes to enforcing laws about drunk driving. Despite facing 30 years of prison time and $70,000 in fines, Barkus:

  • will not face any jail time.
  • will only be asked to pay restitution of $4,000, which one can only assume is a tiny fraction of the costs incurred by Flathead County during its extensive year of work on the case.
  • will have his record expunged, if he manages not to commit another felony in the next 18 months.
  • is only subject to a deferred sentence, during which he will be under UNSUPERVISED probation.

There’s no excuse for this kind of “justice.” The Flathead County Attorney is either endorsing the idea that operating a motor vehicle while incredibly intoxicated is largely acceptable or the idea that it’s only acceptable for certain people.

Incredibly disappointing.

About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba is a seventeen-year teacher of English, former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.

His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.

In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.

14 Comments

    • Thirty days is a slap on the wrist for taking a life, but Stallworth also got two years of house arrest and lost his license for life. At least he went to jail – Barkus put a man in a coma and never went to jail and he'll get it off his record faster than most kids get out of a vandalism charge. Also, does unsupervised probation mean no bi-weekly drug test, no meeting with probation officers? In other words, nothing like what someone caught with soft drugs (but not driving and not damaging anyone's brains' but their own) would have to go through?

  • I remember a governor who washed the cloths of an aide, after he had had a fatal accident while driving drunk. Justice is bought by who you are and how much money you have to throw at it. I suspect you could find some federal money coming Flathead counties way. Ain't power a wonderful thing?

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