KALISPELL (AP) — Outgoing state Sen. Greg Barkus pleaded no contest to felony criminal endangerment Thursday for crashing his boat into the rocky shoreline of Flathead Lake after a night of drinking, injuring all five people on board.
Under a plea agreement, prosecutors would drop two other felony charges against the Kalispell Republican and recommend a three-year deferred sentence for the crash that injured U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg, two of his staffers, Barkus and his wife.
Judge will decide later
District Judge John McKeon, of Malta, said he will decide whether to accept the plea agreement after a pre-sentence investigation is complete.
Sentencing was scheduled for Jan. 20.
Rehberg's state director, Dustin Frost, was the most severely injured in the Aug. 27, 2009, crash and was in a coma for about 10 days. He underwent intensive physical therapy and was cleared to return to work about three months later.
Rehberg suffered cracked ribs and a fractured eye socket and his left leg bone was sheared just above his foot. Rehberg has said the only thing holding his foot on was his cowboy boot.
Rehberg's deputy chief of staff, Kristin Smith, suffered several broken bones and Barkus suffered a broken pelvis. The extent of Kathy Barkus' injuries have not been reported.
Victims asked for reduced charges
Flathead County Attorney Ed Corrigan said the victims "implored" him to reduce the charges to misdemeanors and support the plea agreement, the Missoulian reported.
Corrigan said Thursday that he had enough evidence to prove at trial that Barkus was driving the boat at speeds of 40 mph with no illumination and navigating the lake by GPS after a night of dining and cocktails at a restaurant in Lakeside.
"As a result of that, he crashed his boat into the lakeshore," Corrigan said.
Prosecutors have said Barkus' blood-alcohol level was 0.16 — twice the legal limit — two hours after the crash.
Information from: Missoulian, http://www.missoulian.com