Havre Daily News - News you can use

By Tim Leeds 

Barger and Grant face off in Justice of the Peace election: Bruce Grant


October 18, 2018

Bruce Grant

A Havre man said he is running for Hill County justice of the peace because he believes he has been unfairly treated and targeted for retaliation by local law enforcement and judges and wants to stop that from happening to anyone else.

Bruce Grant is challenging Judge Audrey Barger in her bid for re-election in the nonpartisan race.

Grant, who said he was born in Harlem in 1963, said his most recent troubles started when a police officer searched his house at 1 a.m. a few years ago without a search warrant.

He said he complained to the Havre mayor, who referred him to the chief of police, who referred him to the county attorney. When he was not satisfied because nothing happened to the officer, Grant said, he then contacted numerous people including a local legislator, the governor, a U.S. senator, the state Board of Pardons and Parole, the state attorney general, the office of the Montana commissioner of political practices, the U.S. district attorney for Montana, then the U.S. attorney general.

Grant said his being ticketed in March 2017 for wasting game was in retaliation for that. When a jury found him guilty Nov. 28, 2017, in Hill County Justice Court with Barge presiding, and his appeal to state District Court was dismisssed - which he said was because the local legal system does not treat people fairly - he decided to run for justice of the peace.

"I'm just trying to make a crooked thing straight," he said. " ... I'm standing up for the people that can't stand for themselves, with honesty, fairness and on the Constitution."

He said he learned a lot about law and the Constitution while he tried for 10 years to receive a pardon for a 1982 felony by Gov. Steve Bullock.

He said if elected, he will have access to the same computer system Barger has in the courtroom to look up laws and see what the law says and what the sentences are.

Grant said the search without a warrant was conducted by an officer who said he was looking for a suspect who had crashed a vehicle off the road while drunk. The officer said he had followed tracks back to Grant's house.

Grant said he lives by a school and there were "2,000 tracks" there. He said he believes the officer conducted the search because Grant is a Native American and the officer then searched a house next door, which also belonged to a Native American. The officer probably said he followed the tracks there, too, Grant said.

He said the game warden ticketing him in 2017 was in retaliation for that.

The ticket issued said grant had been in possession of a mule deer buck harvested by his daughter from November 2016 until the ticket was issued March 23, 2017, and he had discarded the entire carcass without taking any meat.

The jury unanimously convicted Grant and Barger sentenced him.

Grant appealed to District Court, arguing that the state had amended charges before he went to trial and had not specified under which subsection of the law in question he was being charged so he could not prepare his defense.

Judge Dan Boucher ruled that amending the charge 11 days before the trial was permissable under Montana law and the state had amended the charges with enough time for Grant to prepare. He dismissed the appeal and denied his motion for a new trial.

Grant said the dismissal of his appeal is evidence that the local law enforcement and judges are all in it together, citing unproven allegations of law breaking by officers and judges in both Hill and Blaine counties.

He said he knows Barger and Boucher had talked about his case before his appeal, becuase, he said incorrectly, she had previously been Boucher's secretary.

Barger served as deputy clerk of district court for 11 years, taking minutes of proceedings in District Court, but never worked for Judge Boucher.

He said the ticket never should have been issued because, although he had the animal in question, after he hung it up the temperature dropped to far below zero and quickly froze the animal, causing it to spoil from the inside out and he was not at fault.

Grant received his pardon from Bullock Jan. 18 of this year, after petitioning for 10 years to both Bullock and Gov. Brian Schweitzer.

He told the Havre Daily News while he still was petitioning that he deserved the pardon because he had become a productive member of society and wanted the issue that happened while he was a child removed.

He pleaded guilty in state District Court in Lake County to, on Sept. 12, 1982, entering a school building in St. Ignatius and committing theft, a court document said.

The judge imposed a three-year deferred imposition of sentence, under which he could have asked to have the charge struck from his record if he had remained law abiding and followed all conditions of his release, but he soon was back in court.

A petition to revoke his deferred imposition said within six months of the sentence in October 1982 he had failed to understand the gravity of the situation, failing to report as required, leaving the area without permission, using alcohol, pleading guilty to driving under the influence and being charged in another jurisdiction with theft of a vehicle.

A judge in Lake County  ruled in in 1984 that because Grant had pleaded guilty to a charge of theft in another jurisdiction he had violated conditions of his release and resentenced him to seven years, all suspended.


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