Posts Tagged ‘Missoula County Attorney’s Office’

by William Skink

Of all the characters—and they are to a great extent just that—in Krakauer’s recounting of rape and the justice system in Missoula, Kirsten Pabst is perhaps best positioned to set the tone for how Missoula can move forward. For now she’s the subject of Missoulian cluster reporting, some of it very generous. So she’s got that going for her. And the support of Griz Nation doesn’t hurt.

What will hurt, though, is refusing to genuinely account for well-documented mistakes, opting instead for a media counter-offensive.

One of the initial local reactions worth reading comes from Dan Brooks. Read his whole post here. I like this part:

The book focuses on a half dozen rape allegations in Missoula between 2009 and 2012. Krakauer presents these narratives from the victims’ perspectives, beginning with their own accounts of the alleged assaults. These in-person interviews with traumatized young women—many of whom feel ill-served by the criminal justice system—could easily reflect bias against local police and prosecutors. There is room to tell a misleading story there. But once these victims make contact with police and courts, Krakauer draws most of his narrative from official transcripts.

These transcripts make a lot of people look bad. Detectives keep asking women with rape complaints if they have boyfriends, observing that lots of times, women cheat on their boyfriends and then call it rape later. From a cop’s perspective, this is a statement of experience, a commiseration about how hard it is to do police work. Of course, to the victim—and to the reader—it sounds like an accusation.

The inappropriate questions from detectives, IMO, stems from the Missoula County Attorneys Office. The refusal to prosecute cases that appear to have enough evidence to make a case trickles down to the detectives. They are the ones gathering evidence, recommending prosecution, then, when MCAO doesn’t prosecute, it’s the detectives who have to inform the victims their case is closed and the rapist will walk free.

In the telling of these stories, one detective plays a very supportive role for one of the survivors: Detective Guy Baker. His advocacy is one of the bright spots in an otherwise bleak landscape. For the most part, Missoula detectives have been doing their jobs. It’s not their role to prosecute the cases they investigate.

If Pabst wants to move her office forward, she should pay close attention to chapter 10. It’s at this point Krakauer uses the “Boston expert” David Lisak to examine some data pointing to the impact of serial rapists:

It’s been estimated that approximately 85 percent of all rapes are in fact committed by assailants who are acquainted in some way with their victims, and that only a small percentage of these “non-stranger rapes” result in teh successful prosecution of the rapist. So Lisak devised a study that would provide insights into offenders who’d managed to avoid both punishment and scrutiny—a population that accounted for the overwhelming majority of rapists. Specifically, he designed his study to reveal whether these “undetected rapists,” like their incarcerated counterparts, showed a propensity to rape more than once and whether they were likely to commit other types of interpersonal violence. The study, titled “Repeat Rape and Multiple Offending Among Undetected Rapists,” co-authored by Paul M. Miller and published in 2002, added significantly to the understanding of men who rape.

Lisak and Miller examined a random sample of 1,882 men, all of whom were students at the University of Massachusetts Boston between 1991 and 1998. Their average age was twenty-four. Of theses 1,882 students, 120 individuals—6.4 percent of the sample—were identified as rapists, which wasn’t a surprising proportion. But 76 of the 120—63 percent of the undetected student rapists, amounting to 4 percent of the overall sample—turned out to be repeat offenders who were collectively responsible for at least 439 rapes, an average of nearly 6 assaults per rapist. A very small number of men in the population, in other words, had raped a great many women with utter impunity. Lisak’s study also revealed something equally disturbing: These same 76 individuals were also responsible for 49 sexual assaults that didn’t rise to the level of rape, 277 acts of sexual abuse against children, 66 acts of physical abuse against children, and 214 acts of battery against intimate partners. This relative handful of male students, as Lisak put it, “had each, on average, left 14 victims in their wake…And the number of assaults was almost certainly underreported.”

The college environment is like a playground for serial rapists, also known as sexual predators. The grooming of potential victims can happen easily, especially once the alcohol starts flowing. Instead of wondering, and then asking, if a rape victim has a boyfriend, detectives should wonder if an alleged rape, when it’s reported, is the act of a serial rapist.

And if you want a peek inside the disturbing mind of a serial rapist, Krakaur excerpts the following from Lisak’s work:

The segment, which I’ve abridged below, begins with “Frank” telling Lisak, “We have parties every weekend.” He goes on:

That’s what my fraternity was known for. We’d invite a bunch of girls, lay out a bunch of kegs or whatever we were drinking that night. And everyone would just get plastered….We’d be on the lookout for the good-looking girls, especially the freshmen, the really young ones. They were the easiest. It’s like they didn’t know the ropes,…like they were easy prey. And they wouldn’t know anything about drinking, or how much alcohol they could handle. SO, you know, they wouldn’t know anything about our techniques….

We’d invite them to the party,…make it seem like it was a real honor. Like we didn’t just invite any girl. Which, I guess, in a way is true….Then we’d get them drinking right away. We’d have all those kegs. But we always had some kind of punch, also….We’d make it with a real sweet juice and just pour in all kinds of alcohol….The girls wouldn’t know what hit them. They’d be guzzling it, you know, because they were freshmen, kind of nervous….The naive ones were the easiest. And they’d be the ones we’d target….

We’d all be scouting for targets during the week….We’d pick ’em out, and work ’em over during the week, and then get ’em all psyched up to come to one of our famous parties….You basically had to have an instinct for it….I had this girls staked out. I’d picked her out in one of my classes….I was watching for her,…and the minute she walked into the door of the party, I was on her….We started drinking together, and I could tell she was nervous…because she was drinking that stuff so fast….

It was some kind of punch we’d made. You know, the usual thing….She started to get plastered in just a few minutes….so I started making my moves on her. I kind of leaned in close,…got my arm around her, and then at the right moment I kissed her….The usual kind of stuff….And after a while I asked her if she wanted to go up to my room, you know, get away from the noise, and she came right away. Actually it wasn’t my room….We always had several rooms designated before the party…that were all prepped for this…

She was really woozy by this time. So I brought up another drink, you know, and sat her down on one of the beds, sat down next to her, and pretty soon I just made my move. I don’t remember exactly what I did first. I probably, you know, leaned her down on the bed, started working on her clothes, feeling her up….I started working her blouse off.

At some point she started saying things like….’I don’t want to do this right away,’ or something like that. I just kept working on her clothes,…and she started squirming. But that actually helped, because her blouse came off easier. And i kind of leaned on her, kept feeling her up to get her more into it. She tried to push me off, so I pushed her back down….

It pissed me off that she played along the whole way and then decided to squirm out of it like that at the end. I mean, she was so plastered that she probably didn’t know what was going on, anyway. I don’t know, maybe that’s why she started pushing on me. But, you know, I just kept leaning on her, pulling off her clothes, and at some point she stopped squirming. I don’t know, maybe she passed out. Her eyes were closed.

Lisak asked Frank, “What happened?”

“I fucked her,” Frank answered.

“Did you have to lean on her or hold her down when you did it?”

“Yeah, I had my arm across her chest like this, you know, that’s how I did it.” As he spoke, Frank demonstrated how he placed his forearm against the victim’s sternum, near the base of her neck, and leaned on it to hold her down.

“Was she squirming?” Lisak inquired.

“Yeah, she was squirming,” Frank said, “but not as much anymore.”

“What happened afterwards?”

“I got dressed and went back to the party.”

“What did she do?” Lisak asked.

“She left,” Frank answered.

Lisak’s interview with Frank was typical of the interviews he did with other rapists. In a part of the interview not included above, Lisak told me, Frank “actually described two other rapes he did, under almost exactly the same circumstances, except the two other victims were unconscious from alcohol at the time. And Frank had no idea that what he was describing to me were acts of rape.”

Frank is a predator, and the Franks on campuses across the nation will rape, over and over, with impunity, unless they are stopped.

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by lizard

It’s been almost 2 months since Michael Gordon shot and killed Christopher Hymel outside the Fox Club. Instead of being charged with anything, the Missoula County Attorney’s office waffled and ultimately punted the case to a process known as a coroner’s inquest.

Meanwhile, some hash-oil producing moron sparks a literal explosion, and now felony charges are being pursued against the girlfriend who was injured in the explosion, along with her 19 month old child:

The girlfriend of a Missoula man who is accused of causing an explosion while trying to make hash oil in a University of Montana apartment earlier this month has been arrested and faces felony charges.

Virginia Marie Ervin, 18, on Monday afternoon made her initial appearance before Missoula County Justice of the Peace Amy Blixt, who set bail at $25,000.

Ervin allegedly stayed in the residence with her 19-month-old daughter on Oct. 12, while her boyfriend, Patrick Wayne Austin, used butane to extract hash oil from marijuana in the kitchen. About 15 minutes into the process, the butane caused an explosion in the apartment, blowing out the apartment’s windows and burning the adults and child.

Austin was arrested immediately and remains in the Missoula County jail pending bail. Ervin, who is a University of Montana freshman and graduated from Big Sky High School, was booked into the Missoula County jail early Friday morning.

When one juxtaposes recent cases brought (or not) by the Missoula County Attorney’s Office, confusion may ensue. Shoot and kill someone outside a strip club, no charges, no pre-trial jail time. Get injured by an idiotic, hash-oil producing boyfriend who advertises on Facebook, felony charges and jail. Force your girlfriend to try and cut a tattoo off her chest with a box cutter, 3 years probation. Operate a medical marijuana business, like Jason Washington did, and it’s time spent in federal prison, hoping for the kind of mercy judge Dana Christensen showed (I’m not sure if Missoula County attorneys had anything to do with that last case, to be fair).

Is anyone else confused?

by lizard

Missoula is looking at the possibility of spending 12 million dollars to increase the holding capacity of our county jail.

Jason Kowalski, the Sheriff’s Captain who oversees the jail, and Fred Van Valkenburg, our worthless head of the Missoula County Attorney’s Office, have conflicting perceptions on the non-violent residents of the jail:

Sheriff’s Capt. Jason Kowalski explained that inmates with mental health and addiction issues are consistently placed in cells where they shouldn’t be housed, and maximum security is full all the time. He said one day in September, the jail was 15 women over the 45-bed limit.

“It’s stressing me out beyond belief,” Kowalski said.

In the past, Missoula County relied on other counties to house the overflow, but that’s not an option now. According to Kowalski and other jail officials, overcrowding conditions are the norm in every county in Montana, and at state facilities too. Montana’s jails are packed to the limit and simply too full to handle Missoula’s consistent overflow, they said.

But there’s also a question of nonviolent criminals getting jail time for minor crimes like a probation violation or driving on a suspended license. Kowalski said that’s a big problem, and both city and county courts are incarcerating petty criminals.

“Those cases are there where a transient has a $50 fine and can’t pay it,” Curtiss said.

Not so, said Missoula County Attorney Fred Van Valkenburg.

“Ninety-eight percent of the people who are in jail are there because they need to be,” he said.

If people are going to jail for nonviolent, minor crimes, the city – not the county – is sending them there, he said.

While Jason is acknowledging the real scope of the problem, Fred the windbag is doing what he does best: avoiding any responsibility by pointing fingers. He is also acknowledging that 2% of the jail population doesn’t need to be there. I’m not sure where Fred gets his figures, but there are clearly people in jail who are there because they are poor, mentally ill, and/or addicts. And why are they there? Because of a failed approach of policing petty crimes called Broken Windows.

Broken Windows was first established in New York and received undue credit for a drop in crime rates. Broken Windows is also credited with creating the conditions possible for the gentrification of Times Square, and now Los Angeles wants a piece. In a Truth Out article titled Policing for Wealth, some familiar sounding aspirations are articulated by the business interests:

Downtown Los Angeles, once dilapidated and almost totally neglected by the city, has been gentrifying rapidly since the late 1990s, when the city passed an adaptive-reuse ordinance that encouraged developers to transform old buildings into lofts and boutique shops.

Developers are consciously following a precedent set by New York. “Right now, Downtown [Los Angeles] is like Brooklyn, but that’s going to change. This is going to be Manhattan,” said one prominent developer to GQ.

Leading the Manhattanization of Downtown is the area’s main business lobby, the Central City Association (CCA), which sees broken windows-style policing as an essential component of development – especially in “cleaning up” Skid Row, a gritty 50-square block area that is home to thousands of homeless people.

“Downtown’s continued revitalization requires consistent enforcement and prevention of low-level crimes that breed both negative perceptions and actual incidence of larger crimes,” reads a CCA manifesto called “Downtown 2020: Roadmap to LA’s Future.” It goes on to declare that the CCA will “lobby for . . . reinforcing the broken windows approach to policing.”

The Los Angeles Police Department’s (LAPD) first full-scale implementation of broken windows policing happened in 2006, when Bill Bratton was serving as its police chief. That year, the CCA, in concert with another business lobby in the downtown area, the Central City East Association, successfully lobbied City Hall to send a 50-officer task force into Skid Row. According to reports, most apprehended under the campaign were taken in on drug charges and minor offenses like sitting on the sidewalk. The vast majority arrested were homeless people, many of whom suffered from drug addiction and mental illness.

While a subsequent lawsuit countered the overt police aggression, broken windows continued to guide the LAPD under Bratton until he left in 2009. The strategy’s ghost lives on under the reign of Bratton’s successor, current LAPD Police Chief Charlie Beck.

Sound familiar Missoula?

So instead of funding treatment options, or looking at actual humane, cost-saving approaches, like housing first, some people want a bigger jail to absorb the costly consequences of broken windows policing. I say costly because the nightly rate to detain an individual is around $110 dollars.

So as some businesses downtown sell single cans of malt liquor to homeless people, then complain about public intoxication and aggressive panhandling, the cost of trying to insulate downtown from societal failures to address mental illness and addiction will continue ballooning.

Who is going to pay for all this?




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