HELENA (AP) — A Montana pastor charged with securities fraud claims he's a victim of selective prosecution by state officials who routinely denigrate conservative Christians.
Harris Himes of Hamilton asked District Judge Loren Tucker in court papers to order Auditor Monica Lindeen to produce office documents he says will bolster his argument that the $150,000 fraud case should be dismissed, Lee Newspapers of Montana reported Tuesday.
The papers filed Monday include information from two former employees in Lindeen's office, one of whom allegedly said she was appalled by the unethical actions and anti-Christian bias she witnessed.
Lindeen's office has denied the accusations and said Himes was charged after an investigation found he and another man had defrauded a church member.
Himes, a pastor at Big Sky Christian Center in Hamilton, was charged with six felonies in September 2011 including theft, fraud and conspiracy to commit fraud.
Himes and co-defendant James "Jeb" Bryant are accused of telling a church member the money would be invested in a factory in Mexico. Authorities said the no such factory existed.
Bryant remains at large and is believed to be in Mexico, state officials said.
Most of Himes' accusations were leveled against Lynne Egan, Lindeen's deputy securities commissioner. The filing says Egan "bases charging documents on emotions," had referred to Himes as a "whack job," and said all organized religion is a "fairytale."
Agency spokesman Lucas Hamilton said Egan has denied Himes' allegations in a sworn statement. He also noted that the charges against Himes were brought on behalf of a member of his church, disproving allegations that the office is biased against Christians.