Montana Judge Sides with CREW, Orders Release of Edited Presentence Investigation Report
On October 24, 2012, the Montana Eleventh District Flathead County Court granted CREW’s request for the public release of a presentence investigation report (PSI) prepared to help the court determine the appropriate sentence for former Montana State Senator Gregory Barkus, who pleaded guilty to two felony charges stemming from the crash of a boat driven by Sen. Barkus that seriously injured the senator and four passengers. One of those passengers was Rep. Dennis Rehberg (R-MT), a current candidate for the U.S. Senate in Montana. At the time of the crash Rep. Rehberg denied Sen. Barkus had been drinking and was impaired, although the court – relying in large part on the PSI – found to the contrary that the cause of the crash was Sen. Barkus’ excessive speed and intoxication.
CREW sought the release of the PSI, under seal by operation of Montana law, in light of the public interest in information bearing directly on the truthfulness of two public officials, Sen. Barkus and Rep. Rehberg. The court agreed, finding this public interest outweighed the privacy interests of Sen. Barkus and Rep. Rehberg, with some exceptions. Under the court’s order, certain personal and background information pertaining to Sen. Barkus, including comments on his health and chemical use, psychological information, marital information,and his financial profile are not to be released. In addition, the court ordered that personal information about the victims, witnesses, and investigators, victim impact statements, and letters of support must be redacted from the PSI.
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) is a non-profit legal watchdog group dedicated to holding public officials accountable for their actions. For more information, please visit www.citizensforethics.org or contact Jordan Libowitz at 202.408.5565 or firstname.lastname@example.org.