HELENA – A judge on Wednesday ordered the release of an edited version of an investigative report into a 2009 boat crash involving U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg and former state Sen. Greg Barkus.
District Judge John McKeon said he agrees with prosecutors that many details of the report should not be released due to the state’s constitutional right to privacy. But other aspects the report should be made public, the judge said, citing the public’s right to know.
The document was not immediately available.
Barkus crashed his boat on Flathead Lake’s rocky shores after a night of drinking on Aug. 27, 2009, injuring his four passengers. Also on board were Rehberg, the wife of Barkus, and two Rehberg staffers, one of whom was in a coma for 10 days.
Rehberg, who is in a close race to unseat Democratic U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, suffered cracked ribs and a fractured eye socket. Also, a left leg bone was sheared just above his foot, and Rehberg has said the only thing holding his foot on was his cowboy boot.
Prosecutors said Barkus had a blood-alcohol content of 0.16, more than twice the legal limit to drive. Barkus pleaded no contest to felony criminal endangerment and was given a four-year deferred prison sentence, $29,000 in fines and supervised probation.
Barkus had asked McKeon to delay release of the pre-sentence investigation report, while Rehberg has not intervened in the request.
Flathead County Attorney Ed Corrigan asked the judge to withhold information he deems private.
The judge, weighing requests for the information from the Associated Press and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, largely agreed with Corrigan and rejected Barkus’ request to delay release.
“Neither this court nor Barkus can ignore the fact that Barkus and Rehberg were public officials at the time of this offense of criminal endangerment, this felony offense involved serious bodily injury and knowingly engaging in conduct that created substantial risk of serious bodily injury and that due to the contested U.S. Senate race, there remains considerable public interest regarding this offense,” the judge wrote.
The judge said redacted information would include personal address and financial information, information on Barkus’ health and chemical use, his psychological information, personal information for witnesses and victims, and other information.