There has been a flurry of reporting and further speculation surrounding the recent gag order issued by Judge Katherine Curtis preventing Flathead County Attorney Ed Corrigan or his staff from discussing any details in the case of Kalispell Republican state Sen. Greg Barkus Aug. 27 boat crash, which injured him and four others, including U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg, R-Mont. The Missoulian’s Tristan Scott interviewed Curtis, and has the best info on her justification for sealing the case. This morning, the Great Falls Tribune published an editorial criticizing how Flathead County authorities are handling the case.
Now it’s going to be even longer before the public finds out more details, because District Judge Katherine Curtis reportedly has sealed all information in the case and told the sheriff and chief prosecutor to stop talking.
This is the kind of case that people want to know about. Cloaking it in a veil of secrecy only creates an environment in which rumors and charges of cover-up can flourish.
I’m not defending how the authorities are handling this case, but I am a little puzzled at how much has been written about this. Here’s where I’m coming from: When and if the charges are filed against Barkus, that will be public, and I assume such charges will contain Barkus’ BAC. If the charges were also sealed, the public outcry would be tremendous. But from a purely pragmatic standpoint, this gag order is not keeping any new information from the public, as far as I can tell. Corrigan was basically waiting on the results of the BAC to say anything, and all reporters seem to be doing in the interim before any charges are filed is call him and ask him if there’s anything new on the case, and if charges are coming any time soon. He wasn’t saying much anyway. So I feel like critics of Flathead County authorities need to ask themselves what information, exactly, they expected to get from Corrigan or his staff prior to charges being filed, that they can no longer get as a result of this gag order.
That said, the amount of time it is taking for the results of the BAC to come back and for these charges to be filed or not is taking too long, and due to the high profiles of the victims, the case needs to move along or not soon. In the absence of facts, the speculation that fills the void is not helpful to anyone, and only raises suspicions about how Flathead County authorities are handling the case.
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