Justice 

"American Taliban" on trial

The Rev. Harris Himes is used to defending himself. The Bitterroot Valley resident has long engaged in a "family values" crusade calling for criminalizing abortion, cutting off access to family planning funds and fighting any legislation that furthers gay rights. His strident views have prompted critics to brand him the "American Taliban." But on Sept. 16, Himes will need to defend himself against allegations that he helped steal $150,000.

"The maximum that he's facing is 40 years," says Jessie Laslovich, chief legal council to Montana's Commissioner of Securities and Insurance and one of two prosecutors on the case.

click to enlarge Missoula Independent news
  • Cathrine L. Walters
  • The Rev. Harris Himes

Charging documents allege that in 2008 Himes and another pastor, James "Jeb" Bryant, lured an alleged victim, referred to as "G.S.," into investing his recent inheritance in a construction-goods company in which Bryant and Himes claimed to have partnership stakes. According to charging documents, "The money has not been returned to G.S. and despite the Defendant's representations otherwise, G.S. has received no ownership ..."

In addition to being a regular speaker in front of state legislators, Himes is also an attorney who will represent himself during next week's trial. He has consistently maintained his innocence, alleging that state Securities Commissioner Monica Lindeen's office has engaged in a witch hunt to stifle his vocal and persistent advocacy. "We've been adversarial on those particular issues," Himes says.

Himes also alleges that Laslovich filed the high-profile case to boost his profile in advance of an unsuccessful bid last year to become Montana Attorney General. "The evidence will show that I really had nothing to do with this in the first place," Himes says.

For his part, Laslovich says that the state has a solid case, while noting that both the Montana Supreme Court and the Ravalli County District Court have scrutinized Himes' claims that he's been targeted unfairly. "The selective prosecution allegations were dismissed resoundingly by the District Court and the Montana Supreme Court," he says.

Himes' trial is being held in Ravalli County District Court and is expected to last seven days.

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