Saturday Crime Roundup: High-Speed Edition

High Speed, Emphasis On “Speed”
I’ve been following news about the boat crash that injured Montana’s U.S. Representative Denny Rehberg and-I think it’s fair to say-almost killed Dustin Frost, his chief of staff, late last week.

If it turns out to be true that Montana state Senator Greg Barkus was operating the boat at speeds of about 40 miles per hour just before the crash, there’s no question that recklessness was involved. I’m not sure if that kind of recklessness is, by itself, legally actionable, but anyone driving a boat that fast at night clearly cares more about the wind in his hair on his scalp than he does about, say, the possibility of meeting unexpectedly with a submerged log and the potential resulting effects of extreme deceleration on his passengers.

In this case, drunk operation is an easy conclusion to leap to, and not just because I’ve never known anyone who doesn’t drink while boating: the fact that the accident in question resulted from colliding-not with a hard-to-see log-but with a cliff strongly suggests that Senator Barkus did not have all of his wits about him.

We’ll have to wait and see, though, because-and here’s what motivated me to open up ScribeFire and post about this-it could apparently take as long as two months for the state crime lab to determine what Senator Barkus’s blood-alcohol content was that night.

From today’s Missoulian:

“Dave McAlpin, director of the crime lab, has said he hopes to return BAC results within 30 days, but Wingert warned that “our timeline, typically, is two months on something like this from the crime lab.”

He said he would not be surprised if results weren’t available until early November, given the lab’s considerable backlog of cases.”

I don’t mean to bash the crime lab here. Still, it was obvious from the start that there was going to be strong local and even some national interest in this investigation’s outcome. Given that, I’m surprised that McAlpin doesn’t prefer to go public saying something like “we’ll have those results in 72 hours,” as opposed to being quoted repeatedly in the newspaper explaining how slowly his lab works. I mean, the people on those CSI shows solve whole murders in under an hour.

I kid, of course. To be fair, McAlpin is also a state senator, so he has to send the testing out to a private lab to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest. And, if there is a backlog, there’s no good reason this case should get to jump to the front of the line-speaking of ethical concerns, I suppose it might look like McAlpin were hiding something if that happened.

Still, I wonder what really goes into testing a vial of blood for BAC? Seems to this lay person that it couldn’t take more than a few minutes, certainly not more than a day. And that, in turn, leads to the question that Amy asked as we read this news over breakfast this morning: “Just how much crime does Montana have?” As ex-Baltimoreans, we’re thinking “not much,” relatively speaking. But then again, it’s not like they really actually solve very many crimes back there.

High Speed, Emphasis on “High”
In other crime news, a $12,000 pot deal gone wrong apparently led to a car pickup chase down Broadway Thursday afternoon, one truck repeatedly ramming the other until one of them had the misfortune to roll over within sight of a Missoula County sheriff’s deputy. I note with approval that the subsequent arrest and seizure of drugs, cash, and a gun proceeded under a search warrant, which certainly seems like more caution than a court would have thought required under the circumstances.

Bonus: Misbehaving Clergy News
Meanwhile, a former area pastor has been arrested in a prostitution sting. It must be so rough on these guys, having to be held to the same standards they demand of everyone else. And I wonder what he thought he was going to get for $60, other than ill?