In Sex Abuse Case in Eastern Montana, Justice Remains Elusive

For previous coverage of the Miles City Sexual Assault Case, please see the following pieces here and here.

On Tuesday, July 30th the Billings Gazette published a piece that should infuriate every Montanan – back in 2002 Jensen was questioned and confessed to the sexual abuse of minors, according to Federal documents. But he was NOT prosecuted and the case was never referred to the proper authorities. Pour yourself a stiff drink and be sure to read the Gazette piece to the end. And when you get there, you will see a name that is familiar: Bill Mercer.

This blogger has previously taken Mercer to task on his unwillingness to buck the insurance lobby for the betterment of Montanans during the Legislative session. Mercer intentionally torpedoed the stronger civil statute bill in favor of a watered down version that appeased his GOP masters and fealty to the insurance industry.

But what does Bill Mercer have to do with the Feds not prosecuting Jensen in 2002 when he confessed?
Good question.

From 2001 until 2009, Mercer was the US Attorney for the District of Montana. From Tuesday’s Billings Gazette article:

The U.S. attorney at the time, Bill Mercer of Billings, told MTN News Monday that it would be improper for the FBI to be involved in the investigation into Jensen back in 2002 and 2003 because the agency lacked jurisdiction.

“The federal government doesn’t have jurisdiction to prosecute cases where the conduct is happening outside of Indian Country,” said Mercer, the current Republican state representative for House District 46.

Mercer also said he has no recollection that an investigation into Jensen came across his desk at that time.

MTN News has a records request pending regarding the records of filings for Jensen’s 2002-2003 case/investigation; which may prove that Mercer is being truthful about his lack of knowledge regarding the case.

But it doesn’t take much speculation to realize this whole situation stinks. 30+ years of stench surrounding Jensen and the adults who constantly claim it “wasn’t their job to report”, “it was out of jurisdiction”, or “I thought someone else was taking care of it”. And when survivors try to improve the justice system – they meet gigantic roadblocks like Bill Mercer (HD-46) standing in their way. A roadblock that may be intentional and corrupt (which records will prove or disprove), or a roadblock that’s just an insurance lobby and GOP stooge who is eager to please corporations and sell Montana survivors down the river.

Even if Mercer had no interaction with the Jensen case in 2002, two Federal agents interviewed survivors at the time, and Jensen confessed at that time – and again, things went no where. Just like the District in the 1990’s: parents were never informed, the case/concerns were never handed over to the proper authorities who would have jurisdiction, the youth survivors interviewed (or those who confided in what they thought were “trusted adults”) were not offered help, adults time and time again chose to not stop a predator. 

Attempts made by survivors/lawyers/lawmakers/citizens to erode this culture of secrecy (which serves the predator) and to make help, protection, and justice accessible to survivors — have been thwarted by Mercer and by the MTGOP. Mercer in the Billings Gazette article claims “sex offenses were a high priority for us. We took sex offenses very seriously.” But his actions and the actions of the GOP routinely tell a different story.

Mercer’s involvement, peripherally and directly, in this case smells fishy. And with the GOP behavior and rhetoric with this case in the Legislature stinking to high heaven, the coincidences seem more like a feature, and less like a bug.


William Mercer is no stranger to controversy and calls for resignation, especially when he thinks the rules don’t apply to him. Tester Calls on Top Gonzales Aide to Resign. And he’s experimented with making political appointments in our justice system before – 2008 in this very blog: Bill Mercer: Putting Politics Above the Law While Breaking It.

Perhaps public service as a leader and policy-maker in the Montana State Legislature isn’t the best fit for Bill Mercer. Billings voters, take note.



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About the author

Plains Feminist

Montana and national politics from a Southeastern Montana perspective, focusing on regional activism, womxn’s issues, LGBTQ equality, education, and revitalization of the Montana Democratic Party. Plains Feminist tries (sometimes fruitfully, sometimes not so much) to connect with the hard-working folks who *eek* out a living on the “not mountains” side of the state. Plains Feminist enjoys intellectual banter over coffee or beer preferably after dark. You can reach her at [email protected] or on Twitter @PlainsFeminist.

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