Mineral County man assaults minor: let’s all take a deep breath

Superior, Montana

It’s in the national news. Curt Brockway, his alleged assault on a young teenager at the county fair, and the small town of Superior, Montana have made the New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Today, CBS, NBC…

And, of course, social media are going crazy.

I emailed my Progressive Democrat friend in Superior. (Yes, there are Progressive Democrats in Mineral County.) This is what he said:

This is something that could tear our poor county apart. Some of the comments made on liberal Facebook pages are truly alarming – almost to the point of being vigilante-like.

My buddy is good friends with the Justice of the Peace, and as with any small town, everybody knows everybody. He continues:

The JP that ORd him (released on his own recognizance) to the custody of his parents (did so) with extremely strict conditions – SCRAM anklet, house arrest (can only leave the house to go to work), etc. There were several reasons for doing this including the fact that we have no jail here, Curt (Brockway) has physical and mental problems, his family has deep roots here, and he is not a flight risk. Under the circumstances I agree with this decision. Unfortunately, people across the country are painting this incident in various manners that only serve to escalate the situation – i.e., suggestions of it being racially motivated, that Curt is a nationalist and white supremacist, that we are all Nazis here in Mineral County – especially the judge – that our criminal justice system is broken, on and on. Oh, and “what do you expect, it’s Montana.” I think what bothers me the most is that people are so quick to jump to conclusions and judge a situation without having all the facts. And these are supposedly liberals.

There are, of course, nasty comments on right-wing sites applauding the alleged assault, but I expect that crap from the far right.

So let’s all calm down. A more in-depth piece written by Seaborn Larson of the Missoulian raises some pertinent points that weren’t initially reported.

First, Brockway suffered from a traumatic brain injury in 2000 after a car accident while in active duty at Fort Lewis, Washington. Now, I’m the last person to take a lawyer’s word as gospel but as Brockway’s attorney, Lance Jasper, explains:

(Jasper) said Brockway’s military background has been central to his identity since suffering the injury to his frontal lobe, which controls cognitive functions like judgement and problem solving.

Couple that injury, Jasper argues, with the president’s calls to weed out those who have protested the national anthem or criticized the nation, and Brockway is no longer thinking for himself but responding to a presidential order.

I hate to see this being tried in the press, but if the attorney’s statements are accurate, there might be mitigating circumstances.

Don’t get me wrong, Prairie Feminist wrote at this very site and stated correctly, “You don’t get to hit kids!”

Her piece was absolutely spot-on but it came on the heels of the first news story, which had little background and the premise that Brockway seriously injured the teenage boy for not removing his hat during the National Anthem. In fact, he could have killed the kid. This, rightfully, inflamed any thinking person’s sense of decency. After reading the initial news report, I was outraged, too.

Brockway could be in need of an intense mental intervention and should be held accountable. He has a history of aggressive behavior, too, but that also followed the head injury suffered in the car accident. In the case where he threatened a family member with a gun, the judge sentenced him to ten years probation but released him from probation after seven years because of “good behavior.”

And if Brockway had kept his mouth shut when bystanders intervened and officers arrested him, it would have gone down as just an ugly assault and probably wouldn’t have even made the Missoulian. His statement that the boy “disrespected the National Anthem” is certainly not a defense and definitely not actions of a rational man. As my friend said:

Unfortunately, this whole uproar is over the fact that Curt kept saying he did it because the kid didn’t respect the flag (or something to that effect). So it is now a political issue. Without this “reason” the whole thing most likely would’ve passed by as an ordinary assault with little or no media coverage.

From what I hear the Brockway family is devastated – and, according to (attorney) Lance, they are even receiving death threats. It’s totally out of control.

In these days of extreme divisiveness, a man with what could be a debilitating mental condition is now at the center of the left versus right political conflict. My buddy continues:

And now his attorney is trying to blame it on Trump!  Which may definitely be a factor but I’m thinking that this will only add more fuel to the fire.

The “Trump defense” will be an interesting one to follow if it is indeed introduced in court. I have no doubt that Trump’s rhetoric may inflame those with deep insecurities or who are mentally vulnerable.

This is really a sad tale. My heart goes out to the family of the young man who was assaulted, and I wish him a complete and rapid recovery. I’m also concerned for the Brockway family in having to deal with an unstable family member and being the recipient of death threats. And am worried for the little town of Superior that it will take a long time for the wounds to heal after this tragic episode.

So let’s back off until all the facts are in.

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About the author

Pete Talbot

'Papa’ Pete Talbot is first and foremost a grandfather to five wonderful grandchildren. Like many Montanans, he has held numerous jobs over the years: film and video producer, a partner in a marketing and advertising firm, a builder and a property manager. He’s served on local and statewide Democratic Party boards. Pete has also been blogging at various sites for over a decade. Ping-pong and skiing are his favorite diversions. He enjoys bourbon.


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  • Thank you for a thoughtful piece and a reasonable attempt to think this tragic event through. Much appreciated.

    • Thanks Pete. We all need to stay civil. We don’t gain what we want by stooping to conquer and this fellow seems to be one of the poor souls left behind

  • It is not against the law to refuse to observe any flag pageantry. Long ago, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of Jehovah’s Witnesses that they (nor anyone else) cannot be compelled to publicly demonstrate allegiance to the flag. Nor can they be punished or held in contempt by patriotic yahoos. This Veteran is a sad case, indeed, but his self-initiated enforcement actions cannot be defended and championed by idiot right-wingers — of whom there are many residing in the tall timber of western Montana. Thanks for the observations, Pete.

  • “If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein.” — Majority opinion in West Virginia Board of Education vs. Barnette, 1943.

  • I still think they should have put him in jail. Take him to another county. Keep him in a psych ward. Something. He got 10 years suspended for threatening a family with a gun. He shouldn’t be out in public at all if he’s so unstable. What’s to stop him from assaulting someone at his job or home? He seriously hurt that kid!

  • Will the Brockway family pay the medical expenses and pay for counseling as necessary? If so, I commend them. However, as reported on every cable news network, Lance tries to use the “Trump made me do it” defense, he will do no favors for his client. The public will pass judgment that a grown man gave a little boy a fractured skull and I agree that Missoula should have introduced Mr. Brockway to the psych ward for evaluation. A round of treatment may prevent ever more volatile behavior in the future. Knowing the vigilante types in some of our rural areas, Mr. Brockway may also suffer at the hands of a local.

  • A fine report by Pete that everyone should read. Both parties to the incident face considerable and continuing medical expenses. That underscores the need for an everyone covered for everything, zero copay, federal single-payer health care system. If we had such a system, we could be assured that whatever the outcome in the criminal justice system, all parties to the incident, and especially the young man whose skull was fractured, would have the resources to resolve their medical issues. All of us would benefit from that state of affairs.

    • Thanks, James, and you are so right. I’ve heard the family of the young teen with the fractured skull set up a GoFundMe site to cover medical expenses. What does that say about health care in America?

  • I read it and am skeptical. The article states there is no jail in the county. Most counties have agreements with other counties to house / jail individuals.
    The suggestion that someone with TBI can be restricted by house arrest raises questions. Brockway has issues with boundaries. Will he really appreciate what “house arrest” entails? And, what about his caretakers?
    This raises the next question. Apparently Brockway has “deep ties” in the community .Does this mean the family is one of those “Old Line” families with political power and connections based on wealth?
    Certainly one of the virtues of small towns is a certain tolerance of “eccentricity.” But, it also means there is a real problem with “sweeping things under the rug.”

    • I think what this article fails to mention is that we know all the information and consider it an excuse rather than trying to “explain” it like it’s logical. If someone did that in Missoula, they’d be in jail. If they don’t have a jail, they send the prisoner to Missoula’s detention facility. Using their logic you could commit murder in Mineral County and be OR’ed.

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