Montana Money Shenanigans Against Dirk Sandefur
October 17, 2016 (Fault Lines) — Last week, Trump tried to use Hillary Clinton’s defense of a child rapist in 1975 against her. This is hardly a new tactic, and it’s not limited to defense attorneys. Apparently, anyone who’s ever been involved with a criminal case can be disqualified from office.
We’ve previously covered the story of Ed Sheehy, a Montana public defender who was defeated in his 2012 run for the Montana Supreme Court when two billionaires dumped a lot of money into criticizing him for defending his clients. The billionaires in question, Charles Schwab and James Cox Kennedy, had a case pending before the same court; though the ads of the astroturf organization called the “Montana Growth Network” forgot to mention that.
Something similar is happening in Montana right now. A judge named Dirk Sandefur is running for a seat on the Montana Supreme Court, and a group called the Republican State Leadership Committee has dropped almost a hundred grand into beating him. To be fair, this doesn’t seem to be as egregious as Sheehy’s case; since the RSLC is an ongoing concern of the Republican Party (not summoned into existence for one election), and there doesn’t seem to be any specific case that the RSLC is trying to influence.
What’s just as bad, though, are the sort of attacks that the RSLC is making against Sandefur. Its website, stopsetemfreesandefur.com, is a doozy. In enormous type, it reads
RAPING A 10 YEAR OLD
Oh my God! What kind of sick bastard is this?
As it happens, all of these are cases that Sandefur presided over while he was a judge. To get an idea of the contempt in which the RSLC holds its audience, let’s take a look at the details of these horrible events.
The child porn case:
A Great Falls man facing seven charges related to child pornography possession changed his plea in court Thursday morning.
Dustin Michael Mahoney, 30, pleaded guilty to one count of sexual abuse of children, a felony, through a plea agreement with the state. In exchange for his plea, the state is recommending a 10-year suspended sentence with the Montana Department of Corrections.
The plea agreement also called for the state to dismiss the other six counts against Mahoney, a typical element of a non-binding deal, which District Judge Dirk Sandefur did during the hearing.
Translation: Sandefur accepted a plea deal negotiated between the prosecution and the defense. Mahoney ended up getting 6 years of probation on a deferred sentencing, meaning if he walks the straight and narrow he has the possibility of getting his record cleared. The RSLC apparently takes exception to Sandefur doing something other than going with the prosecutor’s standard recommendation of 10 years of probation, because really, isn’t the whole raison d’etre of a judge to do whatever the prosecutor wants? Judicial independence, you say? Everyone knows that’s a communist plot.
The Satanic Ritual case:
A Great Falls man charged with sexually assaulting a toddler as part of a satanic ritual was sentenced Thursday to time served for a lesser misdemeanor count in a plea agreement reluctantly entered into by an admittedly frustrated prosecution.
Mark A. Sprague, 26, of 512 2nd Ave. N., entered an Alford plea and was sentenced Thursday to the maximum year in jail, all but the 263 days served suspended, for negligent endangerment, a charge amended from felony sexual assault. One count of ritual abuse of a minor, also a felony, was dismissed.
According to an affidavit filed in District Court, in October 2001, police believe Sprague sexually abused a 3-year-old boy and killed a black cat in front of him as part of a Halloween ritual.
At other times, he reportedly drank cat’s blood in front of the boy and held a gun to the boy’s head, threatening to shoot him.
Same translation: Sandefur accepted a plea deal. More than that, the lesser charge that the defendant ultimately pled to, the fact that it was an Alford plea, and the fact that the plea meant the defendant would get out of jail the same day; screams “the prosecutor has no case.” Let’s check the tape:
The boy, now 5, was taken from his mother, who was Sprague’s girlfriend. The woman told investigators that Sprague said he would kill her if she told anyone about his activities, court records said.
However, her testimony proved unreliable, the boy’s therapist’s testimony was inadmissible, and prosecutors didn’t want to make the boy testify because he is too traumatized. The boy has been adopted.
Here’s how this went down: the prosecutor saw the writing on the wall and realized that he probably couldn’t get a conviction. He offered a plea to a non-registry offense, one to which would allow the defendant to get out of jail immediately. Rather than roll the dice on a trial, Sprague took the deal, which allowed the prosecutor to save a little face. Sandefur had nothing to do with it.
Look, no one expects intellectual honesty in an election. That was probably true when John Adams was running against Thomas Jefferson. What we should expect, though, is a sufficiently informed electorate so that they don’t fall for this kind of BS. Will Dirk Sandefur go the way of Ed Sheehy? We’ll find out in a couple weeks. In the meantime, the RSLC has bet almost a hundred grand that the voters of Montana are just that stupid.