Saturday, October 25, 2014
What's New in the New West
Home » Rockies » Montana » Western Montana » Bozeman » Sen. Barkus Charged With 3 Felonies for Boat Crash That Injured Rehberg, Staffers
Three felony charges were filed against Kalispell state Sen. Greg Barkus Wednesday after his alleged driving of a boat under the influence of alcohol led to an Aug. 27 crash on the shore of Flathead Lake that injured him, his wife, Congressman Denny Rehberg and two of his staff members. Charging documents revealed a blood test taken one hour and 45 minutes after the accident by Kalispell Regional Medical Center showed Barkus had a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.16, twice the legal limit. Four hours after the accident, a test administered by the Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks revealed Barkus’ BAC at 0.12. Flathead County Attorney Ed Corrigan charged Barkus with felony criminal endangerment for knowingly engaging in “conduct that created a substantial risk to of death or serious bodily injury to others,” referring to the passengers on the boat. The charge carries a maximum term in state prison of 10 years and/or a maximum fine of $50,000. Check back with the Flathead Beacon for updates.

Sen. Barkus Charged With 3 Felonies for Boat Crash That Injured Rehberg, Staffers

Three felony charges were filed against Kalispell state Sen. Greg Barkus Wednesday after his alleged driving of a boat under the influence of alcohol led to an Aug. 27 crash on the shore of Flathead Lake that injured him, his wife, Congressman Denny Rehberg and two of his staff members.

Charging documents revealed a blood test taken one hour and 45 minutes after the accident by Kalispell Regional Medical Center showed Barkus had a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.16, twice the legal limit. Four hours after the accident, a test administered by the Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks revealed Barkus’ BAC at 0.12.

Flathead County Attorney Ed Corrigan charged Barkus with felony criminal endangerment for knowingly engaging in “conduct that created a substantial risk to of death or serious bodily injury to others,” referring to the passengers on the boat. The charge carries a maximum term in state prison of 10 years and/or a maximum fine of $50,000.

Barkus is also charged with two counts of felony negligent vehicular assault for operating a motorboat under the influence of alcohol and causing “serious bodily harm” to two of the passengers: Rehberg and his staffer, Dustin Frost, who suffered a severe brain injury in the crash. Each count is punishable with a maximum term of 10 years, and/or a maximum fine of $10,000.

A warrant was also issued for Barkus’ arrest.

The charging documents recount the circumstances of the night leading up to the crash, much of which reinforces what has been reported in the six weeks following the accident: Following a dinner and reception at The Docks restaurant in Lakeside, Barkus, his wife Kathy, Rehberg and his staff member Kristin Smith and State Director Frost traveled from the west shore of Flathead Lake heading for the Marina Cay resort in Bigfork, where the Republican congressman and his staff were staying that night.

The group left the restaurant at around 10 p.m. on Barkus’ boat, which “was not equipped with a spotlight or other lighting to illuminate its path,” according to the document. As a result, Barkus was navigating with a GPS device and appeared to be confused about the direction the boat was heading, according to Smith, one of the witnesses listed in the affidavit, who recalled Barkus saying, “I think I’m turned around,” believing they were heading toward the mouth of the Flathead River, rather than Bigfork, to the east.

Barkus then made a “big” course correction to the right, according to the affidavit. Smith said she believed the boat was traveling at 40 miles per hour, and though the speedometer appeared to be broken, told investigators she recalled the engine being run at 4,000 rpm. Jesco Boat Center confirmed for investigators that Barkus’ boat, with five passengers, could have been going as fast as 45 miles per hour at 4,000 rpm.

Smith said “we were definitely heading, like, full speed straight forward” when she first realized the boat was about to hit the steep, rocky shoreline near Wayfarer’s State Park, just south of Bigfork, according to the affidavit. Her recollection was backed up by a nearby camper who remembered hearing a boat traveling fast just before the collision.

From scrape marks and debris patterns, investigators believe the boat was heading north when it struck the shoreline at a 30-degree angle, went airborne, and then crashed into the rocks and cliff, coming to rest.

According to Barkus’ dinner tab and a waitress interviewed, he had two drinks of Dewars scotch. The affidavit quoted Smith recalling that Barkus drank wine also: “And so I remember Greg had-had one of those, and then after that I saw him drinking red wine…They had bottles of red and white wine out, um, you know, with drinks. So I saw him–he was basically drinking, at least what I saw, red wine for the rest of the night.”

Rehberg has said he did not see whether Barkus was drinking at the restaurant, and did not see any sign that he was impaired at all as the group got back on the boat.

Barkus, the state Senate Republican Majority Whip in the 2009 Legislature, suffered a broken pelvis, several broken ribs and lacerations in the crash. He traveled to a hospital in Seattle for surgery on his pelvis and has been recovering at his home for the last several weeks. Rehberg suffered a badly broken left ankle that required surgery to repair. Frost was in a coma for several days after the crash from a severe head injury. He is now recovering in Missoula. Smith and Barkus’ wife suffered less severe injuries.

Records show Barkus was previously pulled over for drunken driving in 2004 by the Montana Highway Patrol. The charge was reduced to reckless driving, to which Barkus pleaded guilty and was ordered to pay a $335 fine and sentenced to attend a driving-and-alcohol course by a Lake County judge. Barkus said at the time his reckless driving was due to worry over the health of his mother.

Update:Sen. Denny Rehberg released this statement this afternoon: “I was surprised to learn the results of Greg’s blood alcohol test. He didn’t appear to be impaired to me when we got on the boat for the return trip to Big Fork. There is, of course, a presumption of innocence in our system of justice and the charges made today by the prosecutors are now in the hands of the Court. I’ll continue to provide whatever information I can to the authorities. My thoughts and prayers remain with Dustin, Kristin, Kathy, Greg and their families.”

Check back with the Flathead Beacon for more updates.

About Flathead Beacon

Comments

  1. Larry Kralj, Environmental Rangers! says:

    Damn AMATUERS! Repubbies are an embarrassment to all drinking Montanans. My god! I could do handsprings with a BAC like that! Guys that can’t hold their liquor have NO business making policy! Leave it to REAL men who can hold their liquor!

  2. John says:

    If I remember correctly Rehberg was also over the limit, so it is not surprising that he didn’t notice the other guy was impaired.
    Come on denny.

  3. Dave Skinner says:

    This is pretty much a shame. Greg is clearly done politically, but that was his intent anyway. He’d also retired at the end of last year. Now he’s got a responsibility to Dustin Frost for as long as that takes, and would have even if sober. He’s danged lucky there weren’t fatalities and even luckier he wasn’t one.
    Seems to me that booze has cost the GOP a lot since Paul Sliter was killed.

  4. fishhead says:

    Uh-does Rehberg sound like one of the three wise monkeys?

    The sad thing is that Barkus should have had his ass blasted the first time around when he was on dry land, maybe this incident would not have happened.

    Chances are he will skate again. If it was the average guy on the street he’d be on his way to prison. Who’s gonna be next? Somebody’s kid?

    This is the state Senate Republican Majority Whip folks, a fine example of the folks directing policy in the capitol and definitely the good ol’ boys covering each others sorry asses.

  5. Malcolm Kyle says:

    Barcus is a dangerous hypocritical drunken prohibitionist!

    By supporting prohibition he’s helped trigger the worst crime wave in this nation’s history.

    By supporting prohibition he’s helped create a black market with massive incentives to hook both adults and children alike.

    By supporting prohibition he’s helped to make dangerous substances available in schools and prisons.

    By supporting prohibition he’s helped raise gang warfare to a level not seen in this country since the days of alcohol bootlegging.

    By supporting prohibition he’s helped remove many important civil liberties from those citizens you falsely claim to represent.

    By supporting prohibition he’s helped put previously unknown and contaminated drugs on the streets.

    By supporting prohibition he’s helped to escalate Theft, Muggings and Burglaries.

    By supporting prohibition he’s helped to divert scarce law-enforcement resources away from protecting your fellow citizens from the ever escalating violence against their person or property.

    By supporting prohibition he’s helped overcrowd the courts and prisons, thus making it increasingly impossible to curtail the people who are hurting and terrorizing others.

    He should be tarred and feathered!

  6. Todd says:

    John, you might want to review the news reports, Rehberg had a 0.05 blood evel.

  7. Tom von Alten says:

    Wow, 40+ mph in the middle of the night, navigating by GPS. That is not something I would have thought to try.

    The picture is certainly worth a thousand words.

  8. Frank Rizzo says:

    I agree with Larry, I would have landed that jump personally. The GOP has taught us some important lessons through the years. 1st is never go birdhunting with Dick Cheney, 2nd, never go boating with Barkus. And Todd, maybe you might enlighten me on my hazy high school chemistry, a BAC of 0.05 taken four hours after the crash means Denny was completely sober when it happened?

  9. Todd says:

    No a BAC of 0.05 means he was not over the legal limit as the ther poster mentioned he thought he was.

  10. Frank Rizzo says:

    Thanks for clearing that up for me Todd. Those damn Liberals would have you think that if you wait several hours for a BAC test it would come out lower. You and me know the truth, he probably was just registering the second hand fumes from Barkus.

  11. dan says:

    apparently denny is a walking breathalyzer and much more accurate than those flimsy devices used by the police.

  12. Chuck Feney says:

    Denny on the rocks

    A Montana politician named Barkus
    Tried to turn his friends into a carcass,
    After a night of hard drinking,
    With his breath vapor stinking,
    On the shoreline he decided to park us

    It began, as these thing often do
    At a party full of spirits and brew
    But they had a deadline to make
    To get across Flathead Lake
    So the Congressman rallied the crew.

    When they assembled down at the gang plank
    It was clear they were all in the tank
    But the had to decide
    In whose vessel they’d ride
    So they chose Barkus to hold Captain’s rank

    When they loaded the boat to embark
    Then decided to race in the dark
    Their Noah knew his way to land
    Like the back of his hand
    But disaster awaited this ark.

    Folks said this crew could be heard for a mile
    A Voyage of the Medusa, Republican style!
    Barkus pulled down on the throttle,’
    As he tipped back the bottle,
    And on the shoals his new boat he did pile!

    The legislators and staff all got tossed,
    And they feared that a few would be lost.
    But some folks heard the crash
    And were there in a flash
    To save the crew of that Skipper well sauced.

    Here’s something for Montanans to note:
    Why would anyone get into a boat
    To go high speed at night,
    Without any running light,
    That was piloted by a drunken old goat?

    But this Barkus, who’s quite a sly fox,
    Is trying to keep himself out of Court docks.
    He wants evidence denial,
    And a relocated trial,
    For the crime of pouring “Denny on the Rocks”!

    But they must have a trial for show
    So as to give equal justice, Don’cha know!
    But I’ll bet you a buck
    That a plea bargain gets struck
    ‘Cause, for big wigs, it’s not what ya’did, but who ya’know!

    Charles Ulysses Feney