On Sept. 20, Rev. Harris Himes, who's best known for lobbying lawmakers against any advancements toward gay equality, appeared to choke back tears while defending himself in court against charges that he helped bilk a Bitterrooter out of $150,000.
"I have a lot on the line here, there's no question about it," said Himes, who's 71 and faced six felony counts ranging from fraud to theft. "I want my ministry back that these folks have stolen from me ... I want to go back to the legislature."
For more than a decade, Himes has presented himself as a moral arbiter from the helm of his Big Sky Christian Center ministry in Hamilton. During closing arguments at the end of his five-day trial, however, prosecutor Jesse Laslovich painted a wholly different picture of Himes, one of a religious leader who used his pulpit to victimize.
"This is a pretty straightforward story about trust," Laslovich said.
The prosecution alleged that Himes worked with another pastor, James "Jeb" Bryant, to steal the $150,000 inheritance of a man referred to in court documents as G.S. Laslovich said Himes led G.S. to believe that investing in Duratherm Building Systems, a construction goods manufacturing company based in Mexico, would provide him an opportunity to reap financial returns.
It didn't end up that way. When G.S. arrived in Mexico to inspect a glue machine that Himes and Bryant told him would be purchased with his money, he found the machine rusty and worn. Rather than a $150,000 piece of equipment, as G.S. expected, it appeared the machine was worth not more than $8,000. G.S. was similarly disappointed in Duratherm's "factory," which, Laslovich said, looked more like a shack than an industrial operation.
Not long after the Mexico trip, G.S. wrote to Himes requesting his money back. It never came.
Himes responded to the charges by stating that he was the victim. He said he's had his reputation smeared by G.S.'s untrue claims. All G.S. had to do was wait and he would have gotten his money back. Himes further denied personally benefitting from G.S.'s inheritance. "There's no deception," he said.
The jury didn't buy it. After five hours of deliberation, it acquitted Himes of theft, but found him guilty of failure to register as a salesperson, failure to register a security, and fraudulent practices, all felonies. Himes faces 30 years in prison.
Minutes after the jury presented the verdict, Himes vowed to appeal.