To serve and deflect 

Lake County cops mostly avoided punishment after being accused of abusing their power. The investigators who went after them weren't so lucky.

Page 3 of 4

Ternes resigned from POST on May 3. In the resignation agreement Ternes said he would not file suit against the state.

Meanwhile, just days before Ternes left, Dan Duryee, the officer who told a "fish story" about his military experience, was stripped of his law enforcement certifications by POST Council, barring him from ever wearing a badge in Montana again. He had already resigned, in January, from the Lake County Sheriff's Office.

Mike McCarter, the POST hearing officer, wrote in his revocation recommendation that "there is little in the record to show remorse," and Duryee had "failed to acknowledge and take responsibility for his lies." McCarter also called into question Duryee's "honesty and integrity."

During the meeting at which POST Council voted to strip Duryee of his badge, Lake County Sheriff Jay Doyle attested to the quality of Duryee's character. He did this even though Duryee had lied directly to the sheriff about serving in the military, as Doyle acknowledged in a deposition.


•••

In summer 2010, as the race for Lake County Sheriff was heating up, an anonymous group called Concerned Citizens of Lake County created two websites to disseminate allegations of misconduct by Lake County officers, including participation in the Coyote Club. Polson Police Chief Wade Nash knew, as he said in a deposition late last year, that only a couple people were aware of the Coyote Club. One was Jennifer Cannon. She'd been in a relationship with Lake County Lt. Mike Sargeant, the officer who, according to Nash, created a hunting club within the department in the late '90s.

On June 23, 2010, at 1:17 in the morning, Nash and Polson Police Officer Cory Anderson, both of whom were off-duty in a Helena motel room and had been drinking, called Cannon on Anderson's cellphone. According to an investigative report filed a few months later by Frank Bowen, Nash took the phone from Anderson and "warned Jennifer not to speak to Fish, Wildlife and Parks investigators. Cannon felt threatened and told Nash his hunting indiscretions were the worst kept secret in Lake County." Cannon eventually hung up. Phone records show that the officers called her two more times over the next hour.

In March 2012, POST filed complaints against Nash and Anderson alleging witness tampering and intimidation. In their depositions, both deny the allegations. Nash said he asked Cannon if she was releasing the information to Concerned Citizens of Lake County. "It was not a threat," he said. "It was a simple question. There was no investigation going on."

But there was, in fact, an investigation going on. About three months before Nash and Anderson called Cannon, FWP, after receiving a tip, launched an investigation into the hunting activities of Jesse Jacobs, a Lake County Sheriff's Office reserve deputy. The tip also named Mike Sargeant.

Beyond witness tampering, POST also accused Nash of accepting, in 2004, a shotgun as a gift for coordinating a sale of guns seized as evidence.

Anderson got POST's attention with repeated alcohol-related offenses. POST accused him of "the use of alcoholic beverages in a manner which tends to discredit the profession." POST counted three other drunken incidents involving Anderson over the course of several years, including domestic abuse, for which the POST Council suspended him for two years beginning in 2005.

click to enlarge Sarah Hart, assistant attorney general and POST counsel - CATHRINE L. WALTERS
  • Cathrine L. Walters
  • Sarah Hart, assistant attorney general and POST counsel

POST did not ultimately list in its complaint the 2004 incident in which Anderson was driving a boat on Flathead Lake while under the influence of alcohol and pulling a woman in an inner tube. The woman, 38-year-old Laura Lee Grant, was flung from the tube, broke her neck and died. Anderson worked in the Lake County Sheriff's Office at the time. His colleagues didn't measure his blood-alcohol content until about two and a half hours after the accident, when he registered a 0.055. The attorney general's office reviewed the incident and determined that "proof of his actual blood-alcohol level would be difficult" because of the amount of time that lapsed before Anderson's BAC test. The state declined to prosecute.

At a December 2012 POST Council meeting, the members voted to let Nash and Anderson keep their badges as long as both attended ethics training. Nash was ordered to also attend training in evidence procedures, while Anderson agreed to undergo a chemical dependency evaluation.

During that meeting, Sarah Hart spoke in general terms about the lack of ethics she's encountered within Lake County law enforcement agencies.

"When we went into this case, the stuff that was going on, you wouldn't believe it," she told the POST Council members. "But the bottom line is that, in this instance, what happened was POST came in and rang some bells...and said, 'Hey, we're paying attention here, guys. You've got to clean this nonsense up. This is not okay.'"

Members of the law enforcement agencies were "furious," Hart said. "If they could have spilled blood, they would have."

She said Lake County Attorney Mitch Young wouldn't touch the cases "with a 10-foot pole."

Young did not respond to a request for comment. Last year he ignored an open records request filed by the Independent.


•••

In Polson Police Chief Wade Nash's deposition, he recalled that on one night in 1998, his first year with the Polson Police Department, he met Mike Sargeant, an officer in the Lake County Sheriff's Office. They and a few other officers were inside the sheriff's office, and Sargeant started talking about hunting. The season was approaching. Sargeant suggested that they form a club.

Nash said in his deposition that he remembers his exact response to the idea. "I said, 'that's gay,' all right, because I had never heard of no hunting clubs." Nash said he also told Sargeant that non-tribal members can't hunt big game on the Flathead Indian Reservation. "I said, 'The only thing you can hunt is coyotes. So what are you going to name it, the Coyote Club?'"

The club never formed, Nash said. It was "just one of those stigmatisms [sic]...brought up as a joke...There never has been no club, but that's where it originated from."

The evidence that Frank Bowen compiled over the course of nearly two years suggests that there was a club, members of which illegally poached game on the reservation for more than a decade. Bowen concluded that Sargeant and Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribal Officer Jason Nash were the club's central figures.

click to enlarge TONY MARTINO
  • Tony Martino

Bowen obtained one taxidermist's records showing that between 2001 and 2005, Sargeant, Jason Nash, Wade Nash, Dan Duryee and Ryan Funke, a Lake County Sheriff's deputy, brought in 26 animals—deer, elk, moose, antelope and bear. Two other taxidermists told Bowen that Sargeant and Jason Nash were their best customers. One said that over a two-year span, the officers brought in 16 trophy deer, two trophy elk and two bears. The other said they'd bring in 10 or 12 animals a year.

A former Lake County deputy told Bowen that Coyote Club members would leave poached animals at a taxidermy shop under Nash's name; as a tribal member, there's no limit to the number of animals he could take. "Anything not tagged with a state license went under the name of Jason Nash," the former deputy said. "Everyone believed that because Nash was a tribal member and a tribal police officer, no one could or would do anything about it."

As Bowen noted in a case report he forwarded to POST in February 2012, nine of Sargeant's alleged violations, including hunting without a license and from a vehicle, occurred several years ago and were beyond the statute of limitations. But Bowen believed Sargeant could still be charged with unlawful possession and transportation of game, obstructing justice and tampering with evidence. The latter charge is based on the allegation that, in June 2010, when Concerned Citizens of Lake County was posting information online about the Coyote Club, Jason Nash and Ryan Funke removed animal mounts from Sargeant's home.

In September 2010, Bowen and a tribal game warden interviewed Jason Nash, who claimed that he'd never hunted with Sargeant on the reservation, never gave Sargeant or others game meat, and only gave Sargeant four or five deer and one or two elk. Bowen subsequently gathered more evidence that he said demonstrated Nash's claims were materially false. Though, as with Sargeant, many of Nash's alleged violations were beyond the statute of limitations, Bowen sought to charge Nash with obstruction of justice, tampering with evidence and conspiracy.

POST proposed suspending or revoking Sargeant's and Jason Nash's badges. In November 2012, the complaints were dismissed without prejudice, meaning the cases can be reopened.

With Ternes on administrative leave, Clayton Coker, who had been a POST investigator, filled in as acting executive director. He's since been hired as sheriff in Dunn County, N.D. In a recent interview, Coker said he couldn't corroborate much of Bowen's evidence.

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