by William Skink
A homeless man who nearly killed another homeless man 6 months ago under a bridge in Missoula is out, free, because his victim couldn’t remember the trauma.
Because the victim claimed no memory, the county attorney’s office dropped the felony charge to a misdemeanor, to which the man pled guilty and was immediately released because he had already done the time.
We, as a community, have tried to criminalize benign behavior, like sitting on downtown sidewalks, but we can’t keep a man who, for whatever reason, nearly killed another person in jail longer than 6 months before releasing him back onto our streets?
Is this lack of accountability understood by our local homeless population? Does that reinforce a lack of cooperation from homeless victims when it comes to violence, like assaults and rapes, which happen and will continue to happen at alarming frequency? Is that why this particular homeless man casually confessed to a police officer during a “non-custodial” ride? From the link:
In his initial statement to police, Halks said the attack was unprovoked but he could only describe the perpetrator as an old, white man with short hair.
Immediately after the stabbing, Halks came out of the camp and made his way to the Town Pump on North Reserve Street, where employees rushed to his aid and emergency responders transported him to a hospital for treatment.
More than 24 hours later, Stephens, who is well-known to police, was picked up on Mullan Road. While an officer gave him a “noncustodial” ride downtown, Stephens started to talk about stabbing a person named “Mud Duck” under the bridge.
Police thought there may be a connection between Stephens’ tale and the report of the stabbing the day before.
There is a lot of talk about jail diversion right now. Not that long ago the criminal justice focus was on sexual assault. I think our criminal justice system continues to be unable to hold violent people accountable when substance abuse is involved, and our community continues to lack the infrastructure to deal with addiction and mental illness.
Jail diversion has the potential, if done poorly and without the right input, to put the cart before the horse and make our community less safe. I would encourage people to educate themselves and be a part of this conversation in a constructive manner (I’m looking at you, Greg) because it’s important, especially as vital programs continue to lose funding while we spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to keep studying the problems as they worsen.