CREW Calls on Montana Court to Release Files Regarding Rep. Rehberg’s Role in Boat Crash
Washington, D.C. — Today, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) sent a letter to the Clerk of Court for Flathead County, Montana requesting the release of the pre-sentencing investigation report (PSI) in the criminal case State of Montana v. Barkus. In August 2009, a motor boat driven by then-Montana State Sen. Gregory Barkus, and carrying U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-MT), two aides to Rep. Rehberg, and Sen. Barkus’ wife, slammed into rocks on the shore of Flathead Lake, causing serious injuries. One of the aides, Dustin Frost, was in a coma for over a week as a result of the crash.
The PSI submitted by the State of Montana and relied on by the court in sentencing Sen. Barkus is not publicly available, leaving only a sentencing memorandum submitted by Sen. Barkus to describe the accident. As a result, the public has only a one-sided view of the circumstances of the crash, including the role Rep. Rehberg may have played and his version of the facts. Sen. Barkus blamed the crash on a faulty GPS, but the judge ignored that argument and, apparently relying on the information contained in the PSI, ordered a more severe sentence than that recommended by the county attorney.
“The true story behind the very serious boat crash involving two public officials has never been revealed,” said CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan. “Further, it seems Sen. Barkus and Rep. Rehberg may not have been honest when questioned by investigators. While Sen. Barkus has retired, Rep. Rehberg remains in office and the public has the right to know whether his account of that evening matches up with the facts.”
Court documents reveal Sen. Barkus consumed multiple alcoholic beverages at a restaurant in the hours before the accident and had a blood alcohol content that was twice the legal limit nearly two hours after the crash. Nevertheless, following the accident, Rep. Rehberg asserted there was “absolutely” no indication Sen. Barkus was impaired. Disregarding such claims, the court concluded Sen. Barkus had been under the influence of alcohol and was speeding.
“The apparent disconnect between Sen. Barkus’ and Rep. Rehberg’s statements about the crash and the resulting sentence imposed on Sen. Barkus indicates discrepancies between what the public knows about the case and the facts as reported in the PSI,” continued Ms. Sloan. “It is imperative the court release the report to shed light on these differences and allow the public to gauge the honesty and integrity of both government officials.”
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 Stephen Santulli at 202.408.5565 or firstname.lastname@example.org.