Fraud

Hamilton pastor sentenced to 90 days in jail, restitution for securities fraud

2013-12-20T18:45:00Z 2014-07-18T18:33:37Z Hamilton pastor sentenced to 90 days in jail, restitution for securities fraud missoulian.com

HAMILTON – Hamilton pastor Harris Himes will get to spend Christmas with his loved ones.

But, sometime after the first of year, the prominent vocal opponent of abortion and gay rights in the state could begin serving a 90-day jail sentence as part of his conviction on three felony counts of securities fraud.

Himes was sentenced Friday afternoon by Madison County District Judge Loren Tucker to a 10-year commitment to the Montana Department of Corrections, with all but 90 days suspended.

Himes will also be required to pay $150,000 in restitution to a former parishioner who was bilked out his inheritance by Himes and another pastor, James “Jeb” Bryant.

Court records said the two promised the man a large return on his investment in the Mexican-based building materials company Duratherm Building Systems.

At trial in September, the man testified that he was surprised to find the factory was nothing more than an empty agricultural shed when he traveled to Mexico to help with the company.

Himes represented himself both at the trial and the sentencing hearing.

Last year, Himes claimed he was the victim of “selective prosecution” by the state auditor’s office due to his conservative religious views in a failed attempt to get the charges dropped.

On Friday, Himes continued his plea of innocence and claimed the jury had been forced to convict him based on faulty jury instructions.

Tucker accepted none of that.

“There wasn’t a conspiracy,” Tucker told Himes. “The jury made their determination. These folks did not even know you before the trial. This was not a vendetta to blacken your good name.”

Himes spoke at length during the four-hour sentencing hearing in an attempt to persuade the judge that he had been wrongly convicted and argue for a lenient sentence.

A number of character witnesses at the hearing, including several who had either spent time or were still living at his Big Sky Christian Shelter for the homeless spoke on Himes’ behalf.

Himes said that without his income, the shelter would close.

“Real people will be out on the street,” Himes said. “They won’t have a place to go, and it is cold and it’s Christmas.”

***

Himes asked the judge for a three-year deferred imposition of sentence that would be connected to his payment of restitution. Once the money was paid, Himes wanted the sentence to be expunged.

The state asked for a 10-year prison sentence with five years suspended. Prosecutors also wanted full restitution.

Tucker was challenged to find the correct mix for Himes’ sentence. At times, the courtroom went dead silent as he pondered.

Tucker said he agreed that Himes had done good things in the community, but the court was also obligated to address laws that were broken.

“Even if you conduct many good deeds, that does not allow you to exploit someone or commit criminal conduct,” Tucker said.

Himes was convicted of failure to register a security, failure to register as a security salesperson and fraudulent practices, all felonies. He was found not guilty on a felony count of theft by deception.

Tucker said Himes must repay his former parishioner.

Early in the hearing, Himes said he could make an immediate $5,000 payment and then pay $1,500 a month in restitution. After Tucker included that arrangement in the sentence, Himes said all the money he currently had, including the $5,000, was borrowed.

“My finances are slim,” Himes said. “Anything I do have is borrowed.”

As part of the conditions of the sentence, Himes will also be required to contact his probation officer before buying anything worth more than $500 and turn over whatever financial papers the officer might request.

Himes will also be required to complete a cognitive principles and restructuring course.

Himes asked the judge to reconsider both conditions.

“I’m not even sure what a credit report is,” Himes said. “Do I really need that cognitive course? Will it be productive?”

“I hope so,” Tucker replied.

The judge allowed Himes to stay the 90 days of jail time pending an appeal.

“You can spend Christmas with your loved ones,” Tucker said. “That’s probably the best the court can do for you today.”

If the sentence holds, Himes will be required to serve his 90 days of jail time five days a week.

“Out of the 90 days, you may have two days each week to go about the tasks that are important to you,” Tucker said.

Himes was released on his own recognizance.

Reporter Perry Backus can be reached at 363-3300 or at pbackus@ravallirepublic.com.

Copyright 2015 missoulian.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(17) Comments

  1. oldie
    Report Abuse
    oldie - December 22, 2013 10:37 pm
    to Home in Montana...Well excuuuuse me. I didn't realize that The Missoulian was a part of the vast left wing conspiracy to persecute innocent Christians. I'm sorry for believing a story that confirms my biased opinions of con men preachers. And me a Christian myself!

    I'll tell you what, Home in Montana, if you pass the basket I'll chip in to buy Pastor Harris Himes a brand spanking new rope to use if the Judas can't afford a new one himself. You remember that little Bible story don't you Homie? Sure you do.

    BTW, you seem to have all the inside scoop, so where did all that money go anyway?
  2. Home in Montana
    Report Abuse
    Home in Montana - December 22, 2013 4:34 pm
    What most of you don't recognize is that Harris was not found guilty on any of the issues involving taking money. Only on the failure to register and license involving securities. Do you think it fair to be sentenced for 10 years for failure to get a license?

    This article is not very accurate as he was remanded to the Department of Corrections for 10 years of supervision. He himself agreed to pay back the $150,000 even though there was no evidence at all to show he received even a penny of the money. Which he did not. The factory is alive and well in Canada but no evidence was allowed in the trial to prove it even though several from the Bitterroot have visited it and seen some of the buildings built by the Durotherm company.

    Many of you are plainly bigoted towards Christians.
  3. oldie
    Report Abuse
    oldie - December 22, 2013 11:21 am
    See, If you rob a bank with a squirt gun and a mustache the judge will hand you 50 years for it. Bank robbery is worse than murder according to the law. In this country banks are sacred.

    So if you want to get away with stealing $150,000, steal it from someone that the government does not care about. Steal it from your common man. The law has no respect for the common man. But banks, they're sacred though?

    In Hamilton it appears that fundamentalist christian preachers are sacred too. Judge Loren Tucker as much as said for his punishment this preacher shall receive for Christmas an interest free loan of $150,000. He didn't even steal it, Tucker says. It was no more than a loan from his parishioner. That's what this sentence boils down to.

    This is the double standard of justice that I hate. Somebody show me the way to the revolution. I want to be the first to sign up.
  4. oldie
    Report Abuse
    oldie - December 22, 2013 10:28 am
    Judge Loren Tucker: "I sentence you to receive an interest free loan of $150,000. And may God have mercy on your soul.

    OK, I'm waiting for the outrage at the lightness of this sentence. Something tells me I'm going to be waiting for quite a while though.

    This judge allowed this slick-talking preacher 4 hours to try to talk his way out of the punishment he had coming to him. It sounds like those 4 hours were very fruitfully spent by this glib, con man of a preacher.

    The judge didn't march this preacher straight to jail like he would have with anyone else. Oh no. This wolf in sheep's clothing gets to spend Christmas with his family. Isn't that nice!

    All but 90 days suspended out of a possible 10 year sentence? Wow! And then he says he is broke, has got no money. Well what did he do with the $150,000? Where did it go? The casino?

    It's going to take him 10 years to pay back what he stole if he really does put down $1500/month like he says he will. But what good is his word now Judge? No good at all if you ask me. That's how he stole the money in the first place, with his lies.

    He should be re-paying his parishioner a 10% interest fee every year until it is all paid back. The way this sentence is arranged the victim is only getting back less than half of what his money should be worth in 10 years. Himes should have to pay at least $300,000 to the victim just to make him even after 10 years.

    Pastor Himes is essentially getting away with an interest free $150,000 loan. Give me a deal like that Judge Loren Tucker! I'll stomp around in your church and hoot and holler for an interest free $150,000 loan. I'm ready to convert right now for that kind of a deal. If you want to baptize me you can half-drown me in the river for all I care. For that kind of a sweet deal you can. Take me home Jesus! I'm ready for my sentence right here and now.
  5. JustEd
    Report Abuse
    JustEd - December 22, 2013 7:28 am
    Maybe he'll start dealing with his closet issues. Maybe the magic santa will return today.
  6. MTminded
    Report Abuse
    MTminded - December 21, 2013 5:58 pm
    “Out of the 90 days, you may have two days each week to go about the tasks that are important to you,” Like, say, committing fraud.
  7. msonelson
    Report Abuse
    msonelson - December 21, 2013 5:17 pm
    Maybe he can pay his fines once he sells a Mexican business to his cognitive principles restructuring therapist.
  8. Readneck
    Report Abuse
    Readneck - December 21, 2013 10:24 am
    90 days! This judge needs to go. I wonder what Himes would have gotten had he been non-white or atheist. To go easy on him because he used religion in his fraud in unconscionable.
    He has done no "good deeds".
  9. montananurse
    Report Abuse
    montananurse - December 21, 2013 9:25 am
    Christian values..............
  10. Roger
    Report Abuse
    Roger - December 21, 2013 8:37 am
    He still needs some serious prison time - the sentence is far too lenient for the huckster.
  11. Atheist Educator
    Report Abuse
    Atheist Educator - December 21, 2013 8:00 am
    "Himes claimed he was the victim of “selective prosecution” by the state auditor’s office due to his conservative religious views."

    Yes, play the victim card:

    Christian conservatives have perfected playing the victim card



  12. Barkinlounger
    Report Abuse
    Barkinlounger - December 21, 2013 7:41 am
    The man seems a little old to be having his cognitive principles restructured. Seems like they should have started on that years ago. Don't sound like he's too hip on the idea, either.
  13. Barkinlounger
    Report Abuse
    Barkinlounger - December 21, 2013 7:34 am
    "Cognitive Principles and Restructuring Course" That sounds a little spooky in an Orwellian way.
  14. trad man
    Report Abuse
    trad man - December 21, 2013 6:12 am
    Anyone else would serve hard time, what a joke of a court system, no wonder so many things go on wrong down the Bitteroot, this guy is a blood sucking leach and went after the easiest target in his flock!! My God have mercy on your poor excuss of a soul
  15. Jacob
    Report Abuse
    Jacob - December 20, 2013 9:50 pm
    What? 5 days of jail at a time??ridiculous!
  16. Bittersweet
    Report Abuse
    Bittersweet - December 20, 2013 7:40 pm
    Praise the Lord!
  17. libertarian
    Report Abuse
    libertarian - December 20, 2013 7:11 pm
    It doesn't matter what you think of Himes, but judge's will never inform the juries of their right to judge law and fact and vote according to conscience. Sounds to me like Himes was guilty given the issues, but the jury still needs to hear their rights.
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