Above the law 

In Lake County, it's hard to tell some cops from the criminals

Page 3 of 3

POST's investigation of Duryee remains open. It also uncovered other alleged misconduct by Duryee. Lake County Sheriff's Deputy Michael Carlson said in a sworn statement that in 2006, Duryee arrived at the scene of a suicide, bagged up some of the victim's skull fragments and allegedly gave them to Deputy Becky McClintock, who thought human remains might help train her cadaver dog.

Duryee is still on the force in Lake County. Sheriff Jay Doyle says the decision to retain Duryee was made after consulting with the Lake County attorney's office and the state attorney general's office.

POST Director Ternes says he cannot speak to specific cases. But, he says, "We've had numerous complaints filed by citizens up there in [Lake County], and so we're just having to go through them one by one and deal with them. It's up and down the valley, including tribal officers."

Lake County Attorney Mitch Young did not return calls seeking comment, but he made clear during an August POST Council meeting in Helena that he's had enough of POST's presence in Lake County. He expressed particular annoyance that Ternes questioned the psychologist's opinion of Duryee and reopened his case.

"The problem is this," Young said. "You folks have a job to do. We understand and respect that. But it needs to be done right."

In a recording of the meeting Ternes can be heard saying, "Absolutely."

"If you want to be respected," Young continued, "you have to behave in a respectable manner, and that hasn't happened...and I'm hoping that will change."



Gagged

Terry Leonard is a veteran who remains in the U.S. Army Reserve. He was the original owner of the Flathead Lake Brewing Co., and he served for seven years in the Lake County Sheriff's Office, six as a reserve deputy and, beginning in 2009, for one year as a deputy.

"When I came on board," Leonard says, "I started hearing these things that I thought were ridiculous—and it turned out that they weren't."

Leonard had known about the Coyote Club camps; he even gave them beer from his brewery, he says. But it wasn't until he became a deputy and was around the office more that he learned what actually went on at those camps, he says, and of other misconduct.

So Leonard spoke up. And Sheriff Lucky Larson fired him.

Larson would only say that Leonard failed to make probation.

Leonard kept talking. He founded Concerned Citizens of Lake County and created two websites, www.asksherifflucky-larson.com and www.nojaydoylesheriff.com. The sites disseminated some of the allegations in this story. Leonard also made claims about missing ammunition and misspent funds.

It was election season. Along with Jay Doyle, deputies Steve Kendley and Dan Yonkin were also vying to replace Sheriff Larson, who was retiring.

On April 13, 2010, Doyle's campaign treasurer filed a complaint with the Montana Commissioner of Political Practices alleging that Leonard's website violated election laws by campaigning anonymously.

Lake County Attorney Mitch Young also expressed concern about the websites possibly violating election laws. But, as Young wrote in a March 2010 letter to John Strandell, chief of the Investigation Bureau in Montana's Division of Criminal Investigation, he recognized that "Because the Lake County Sheriff's Office and/or its members are the subject of these allegations, the sheriff's office has a clear conflict of interest in the investigation of these matters."

That didn't stop Young from applying for a warrant to search Leonard's house in September 2010. Leonard was suspected of having committed the misdemeanor crimes of "election materials not to be anonymous, and criminal defamation." District Judge C.B. McNeil signed the warrant.

In October 2010, Lake County officers raided Leonard's home and seized all of his family's computers and electronic media, where they assumed the information on Leonard's websites was stored. There was no further explanation or investigation. Most of the property was returned five months later, Leonard says, and only because his attorney demanded its return.

Leonard's attorney, Rich Buley, of Missoula, observes that in his 30 years of criminal defense work, "I have never seen a search warrant for investigating a misdemeanor."

click to enlarge Informants told FWP that Lake County Sheriff’s personnel conspired to conceal the possible involvement of a deputy in the 2004 boating accident on Flathead Lake that killed Laura Lee Grant. - PHOTO BY STEELE WILLIAMS
  • Photo by Steele Williams
  • Informants told FWP that Lake County Sheriff’s personnel conspired to conceal the possible involvement of a deputy in the 2004 boating accident on Flathead Lake that killed Laura Lee Grant.

Leonard says the Lake County Sheriff's Office "had no intention of seeing justice done or even conducting a proper investigation with due diligence. It was simply a strong-arm tactic to send a message of fear and intimidation... Basically, 'Don't question what we are doing here in Lake County. Don't bring attention to us. Don't point out the corruption—or we will come to your home, search it and seize your property.'"

Jay Doyle won the election.

Last month, Commissioner of Political Practices David Gallik concluded that there was insufficient evidence that Leonard had violated election laws.

Leonard contends that the culture of corruption in Lake County is based on "mutual guilt knowledge...It's, 'Hey, I know you did this wrong, and you know I did this wrong, so let's just pretend it didn't happen—keep your mouth shut.' That's exactly what's happened. It's propagated itself. It's become this unstoppable machine."

And that, Leonard says, has real on-the-ground consequences for law enforcement.

"If a murderer goes free because some jackass cop is a liar, you got a guy who kills people on the streets again."

Leonard is still unemployed.



That's how it works

On January 31, 2011, at 11 a.m., in the state Justice Building in Helena, two FWP game wardens and two Lake County Sheriff's deputies met with Attorney General Steve Bullock to present allegations of misconduct by Lake County law enforcement officers.

According to the two deputies, who asked to remain anonymous, Bullock seemed uninterested. They say Mike Batista, the administrator of the state's Division of Criminal Investigation, who also attended the meeting, was dismissive.

"My sense," says one of the deputies, "was that unless the sheriff or the county attorney asked them to look at it, they were not going to look at it."

Batista tells the Independent that is, in fact, generally how it works. In a case like the boating accident, he says, if a county attorney doesn't find anything wrong with an investigation, there would be no reason for the attorney general's office to get involved.

A similar dynamic applies to hunting violations, Batista says. FWP typically refers cases to local prosecutors, and those cases also land on the county attorney's desk.

"A request for assistance needs to come from the sheriff or the police chief or county attorney," Batista says. "And if an allegation is made against an employee of a sheriff's department, we have a responsibility to inform the sheriff of that, first and foremost. And then if there's credibility to the allegation, in many cases—nine times out of 10—they do the right thing and ask for an outside investigation either by us, a neighboring county or, in some cases, one of the federal agencies."

When one of the deputies heard this during their meeting with Batista and Bullock, he pointed to the Montana statute that states that it's the duty of the attorney general to "exercise supervisory powers over the county attorneys in all matters pertaining to the duties of their office," including "the power to order and direct county attorneys in all matters pertaining to the duties of their office."

The other deputy says he turned to Bullock at that point and said that if the attorney general's office doesn't act without consent from the sheriff or county attorney, it appears that sheriffs and county attorneys can "get away with murder.

"And he said, 'Well, I hate to think that.'

"And I said, 'Well, I think that.'"

Batista says that what the deputies and game wardens presented were "allegations without a lot of detail, some of which had been addressed."

Lake County had asked the attorney general's office to investigate the machine gun that Dan Duryee allegedly made. The state also looked into the 4,000 rounds of missing ammunition. "The reason nothing happened is there was no evidence," says Montana attorney general's office spokesperson Judy Beck.

A week after the deputies' meeting with Batista and Bullock, the Lake County Sheriff's Office attempted to reprimand them for attending it, they say, a charge that Sheriff Doyle denies. One deputy says he was charged with conduct unbecoming of an officer, bringing disrepute on the office and disobeying a direct order. The charges weren't ultimately pursued.

The other deputy says he was demoted to what he says is effectively a detention officer's position. Instead of investigating crimes, as he used to, he handles the violent sexual offender registry and walk-in complaints. He sits at a tiny desk that's monitored by a live video camera. "I call it the penalty box," he says.

Sheriff Doyle maintains that he's attempted to change the culture in the Lake County Sheriff's Office since he was sworn in 11 months ago. "That's my whole intent," he says. "And it seems that I have got personnel who thrive on mayhem. There seems to be people who love to throw out allegations. Everything they are alleging has already been investigated—fully."

Though at least one criminal investigation may be just beginning: Batista says the attorney general's office recently received a request from Doyle to review an allegation of perjury by Undersheriff Karey Reynolds. POST found that Reynolds has misrepresented his work history, claiming he hadn't had a break in service of more than three years when in fact it may have been as long as a decade.

In May, POST ordered Reynolds to return to basic training. He's in the 12-week course now.

Clarification: Jason Van Voast says he did not speak to FWP investigators regarding alleged hunting violations. FWP stands by the information that the Independent obtained.
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