Former state lawmaker guilty of three misdemeanor charges
Jurors say former state lawmaker is guilty of three misdemeanor charges in a verdict that came down Friday evening. Joel Boniek, a former member of the Montana House of Representatives, was found guilty of evading a roadblock, resisting arrest and obstructing a peace officer, all misdemeanors.
Boniek represented himself and claimed in his opening arguments that wasn't fleeing from police, he was just trying to get home to his wife and his mule, Jessie. He argues he didn't resist arrest, he was violently assaulted by police officers.
"I was going to protect my family, my animals everything that I have. I was going there to assist my neighbors who were volunteering to fight a fire and I was forcibly prevented from doing what everybody knows has to be done," explains Boniek.
Law enforcement from at least three different counties posted up at the entrance of the courtroom Friday, while more patrolled the outside of the building.
"We've had some disruptions before...This is the people's house and we want to make it safe and secure for everybody," says Park County Sheriff Alan Lutes.
A number of Boniek's supporters waited to enter the courtroom. They say this trial is not just about his rights, but the rights of many.
"He's a man of integrity, I've known him for many years and he's a good man," said one.
Boniek claims he was trying to do the right thing, while law enforcement was protecting the law, not the public. The state argued the testimony from several officers, as well as highway patrol dash camera footage, prove otherwise -- that Boniek alluded officers, resisted arrest and obstructed a peace officer more than once.
At one point, Boniek supporters laughed as the video was shown to jurors. The state says the case is no laughing matter and outbursts from supporters only created stress.
"It's important because in cases like fires or other emergencies, the public has to comply with lawful orders of any branch of law enforcement, otherwise, there will be chaos and more people could be hurt or more property could be lost," explained Chief Deputy Park County Attorney Kathy Carrick.
Boniek previously told us he would appeal if he lost the case.