At 9 a.m. on July 17, about 15 people stood outside the Flathead County District courthouse waving homemade signs imploring drivers to “Save KGEZ.”
KGEZ is the Kalispell radio station owned by John Stokes, who also hosts a talk show called The Edge.
The right-wing host is controversial in the Flathead, having most famously put together a 2002 anti-Earth Day rally during which he derided environmentalists as “green Nazis” and burned a green swastika.
This month has already been a bad one for Stokes. On July 11 and 12, the Montana Supreme Court ruled against him in two cases, limiting the size of the easement on which his radio towers are planted and ruling that the state did not bribe a landowner to eliminate Stokes’ easement.
At the July 17 district court hearing, the owners of the property on which KGEZ holds its tower easement, Todd Gardner and Doug Anderson, asked the court to “extinguish” the easement, saying Stokes had not complied with a court order to bury a conduit line. Losing the easement would effectively shut down Stokes’ station.
Stokes represented himself at the hearing, and before a courtroom packed to capacity with KGEZ supporters, he called himself as a witness, then questioned himself.
During Stokes’ 45-minute testimony, he disputed the Supreme Court decisions, made counter-accusations against Anderson and Gardner, and called Gardner a “known liar.”
Gardner and Anderson’s lawyer objected, describing Stokes’ testimony as irrelevant, but judge Stewart Stadler allowed Stokes to continue.
Eventually, Stokes noted that he’d secured a contract to have the conduit buried. Stadler halted the proceedings then, and asked to see the contract.
After examining it, Stadler called it the only relevant evidence at the hearing and, after giving Anderson and Gardner a chance to make objections, gave Stokes 60 days to bury the conduit.
“This court has no desire to shut down KGEZ,” Stadler said, to applause from the courtroom.
If Stokes wants to pursue counter-accusations, Stadler told the court, “Then that would be filed as a separate lawsuit, and hopefully I won’t draw it.”