Serious Ethical Questions Surround Kirsten Pabst’s Quest for County Attorney

by jhwygirl

BuzzFeed’s Katie J. M. Baker has published a damned fine and thorough assessment of Kirsten Pabst’s candidacy for Missoula County Attorney.

Ms. Baker puts together a pretty long list of issues that should make any Missoula resident rule Pabst out of the running for the next County Attorney – to replace the faultering and uncooperative Fred Van Valkenburg.

I especially love that Katie J.M Baker used Pabst’s blog posts. While Pabst has been critical of not only the media, but of anonymous bloggers like me, Pabst was so committed to her blog words that she’d delete them in two or three days. Apparently there are people out there who know that game. Who’d of thought of that???

And for those of you still fans of Mr. Van Valkenburg, consider his words on Pabst – who is openly criticizing Van Valkenburg’s leadership:

As chief criminal deputy, Pabst was free to establish any policy she thought she was appropriate in the criminal division, he said. “She was an integral part of the management of this office for over five years.”

Missoula’s once again in the national news over the University of Montana & Missoula’s rape scandal – this time via Kirstin Pabst’s candidacy.

If Missoula is wanting to put the rape scandal behind us, putting Pabst in as chief of the county attorney’s office is NOT the way to go about it.

  1. really enjoy watching Fred Van Valkenburg slowly roast himself on the spit he shoved up his own ass….

    Pabst is a shameless opportunist. not to be trusted with the salvage of Missoula’s reputation regarding prosecution of rapists and treatment of victims of sexual violence.

  2. lizard19

    good on Baker for staying up on this. the baggage Pabst is packing is substantial, and needs to be told beyond the fluff of the same Missoulian Pabst railed against in that deleted blog post.

    in that Missoulian article, one of the things a supporter points to as a good thing is Pabst’s 99% successful prosecution rate. I don’t see that as a good thing. I see behind that number an avoidance of sure-fire prosecutions to bolster a rate used for career advancement. and we’ve heard plenty about how difficult prosecuting charges of sexual assault are.

  3. Quentin Rhoades

    As a supporter of Kirsten Pabst, I note Josh van de Wetering has his own baggage, bearing on his professional competence, which is much more troubling than the political sniping we’ve seen directed at Pabst.

    Remember that day in November, 2001, when we heard the blood-curdling news. A customer of the Hair Gallery in Florence the slashed body of 62-year-old owner Dorothy Harris just inside the front door, in a pool of blood. Authorities then discovered manicurist Brenda Patch, 44, and another customer, Cynthia Paulus, 71, dead in a utility room in the rear of the salon. Investigators reported it was the most brutal crime-scene any of them had ever witnessed. According to local news media, the victims’ throats had been “deeply slit.”

    Investigators found only dead-ends, and the case went cold. Until 2005, when law enforcement finally got a break from a jailhouse informant. Someone had fingered Brian Walter Weber, then in federal prison, as the killer. This was consistent with the sheriff’s suspect list in November 2001, when on Thanksgiving Day, Weber had been questioned and his van searched.

    When the news surfaced in 2005, van de Wetering, then an assistant U.S. Attorney and current Candidate for Missoula County Attorney, was assigned to the case.

    Fast forward to April, 2008. U.S. Attorneys filed an indictment against Weber and a co-defendant, Lincoln Benevides, alleging that Weber, at the direction of drug-boss Benevidez, had slashed the Florence women over a drug debt owed by one of their relatives. Benevidez would later plead guilty to drug charges that would yield a 25-year sentence, but the triple-murder charges against him were dropped. The reasons reported by the Missoulian were hair-raising:

    “In exchange for his guilty pleas, federal prosecutors agreed to drop the murder case, which defense lawyer Tim Foley said was strafed with problems from the beginning, and ultimately was ‘hijacked by lying jailhouse informants and investigators whose zealotry outstripped their ethics.’

    * * *

    “‘We have never seen the kind of misconduct we saw in this case,’ said Foley, who described instances in which attorney-client mail was opened, read and distributed while Benavides was in custody on a related state drug conviction out of Lake County. …

    “Additionally, letters from jailhouse informants that contradicted grand jury testimony were hidden from the defense and in some cases lost, Foley said, and pervasive problems in the ‘misguided’ homicide case were redressed only when Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Thaggard took over at the helm.”

    Thaggard’s bungling predecessor on the case? Josh van de Wetering.
    Meanwhile, van de Wetering’s prosecution of Weber floundered. The murder trial had been scheduled for March 1, 2010, and was expected to take a month to present, with scores of witnesses and documents from eight years’ of investigation. But in late 2009, U.S. District Court Judge Donald Molloy tossed two counts of what would become a failed indictment. In a carefully crafted 35 page opinion, issued on December 15, 2009, Judge Mollow minced few words. He accused Van de Wetering of making “dubious attempts to skirt orders,” and offering up excuses that “ring hollow.” Van de Wetering’s contentions, he wrote, were not “supported by the record.” Later, in January 2010, Judge Molloy would dismiss the entire case, including the murder charges, for what Thaggard would admit was a complete lack of credible evidence: “The motion to dismiss is based on the professional judgment and experience of the prosecuting lawyers and their conclusion, upon a re-evaluation of the evidence, that the United States cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt the essential elements of the charged offenses,” wrote Judge Molloy.
    Before the case could be thrown out, Van de Wetering abruptly left the U.S. Attorney’s office. His parting shot was shrouded in ambiguity: “I can no longer work in that office.”
    And the heinous murders of Harris, Patch and Paulus? The killers remain unprosecuted.

    This race is not about politics. It’s about professional competence. I’m voting for Pabst.

  1. 1 Kirsten Pabst, Missoula Democrats and the Prosecution of Sexual Assault | 4&20 blackbirds

    […] The journalist who spent a weekend in America’s so-called rape capital decided to recently amplify some big problems with the candidacy of Kirsten Pabst, which jhwygirl covers here. […]

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