HAMILTON - A self-styled Hamilton pastor accused of running an investment scheme said Thursday that gay and pro-abortion activists - and the state's insurance commissioner - may be behind the charges.
Meanwhile, Harris Himes' legal troubles may put more than a dozen homeless people back out on the street after a Hamilton shelter cut ties with him.
Himes was charged with six felonies in Ravalli County Justice Court Wednesday after turning himself in to authorities. He said he'll hire an attorney and posted bail of $10,000 shortly after the hearing.
Himes was required to surrender his passport and will next appear in District Court on either Oct. 6 or Oct. 20.
He didn't keep a low profile after leaving the Ravalli County jail, though.
Peter Christian of KGVO radio's "Talkback" show mentioned the charges against Himes on Thursday morning and Himes called in to respond. He told Christian he is an attorney, but knows better than to represent himself.
Himes went on to claim that gay and pro-abortion activists may be behind the charges against him and co-defendant James "Jeb" Bryant, another self-proclaimed pastor.
Himes further claimed that State Insurance Commissioner Monica Lindeen may also be behind the charges because of political disagreements they've had in the past. Other callers quickly, and forcefully, called him out for making groundless accusations.
Himes and Bryant are accused of perpetrating an investment scheme that reportedly bilked a Bitterroot Valley man out of his $150,000 inheritance.
Himes' troubles also quickly cast a shadow over local homeless residents.
On Wednesday evening, the three-man board of the nonprofit Lighthouse Corp., which has overseen the Lighthouse of the Bitterroot homeless shelter since March 2010, called an emergency meeting after learning of the charges.
At the meeting, the board severed the relationship between the Lighthouse and Himes' nonprofit Big Sky Christian Center. That means the 14 to 18 homeless people living in the Big Sky Christian Center must find somewhere else to live.
"I went to talk with the residents this morning to let them know," said board member Gary Locke. "The Lighthouse has pulled out, but personally we still feel a commitment to them."
The board wants to protect the Lighthouse Corp. so they can transfer it to another facility, should they be able to find one. Locke said the board will begin its search next week.
In April 2010, the Lighthouse applied for funding from the Veterans Administration for a new homeless men's facility in Hamilton, but lost out to Missoula's Poverello Center and another shelter on the Blackfoot Indian Reservation. The corporation is current on its obligations, having raised around $20,000 from local churches and charitable donations to keep the shelter running.
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"We receive no federal funding," Locke said.
Originally, Locke told residents the doors would close Friday. Resident Shelly Mitchell said Himes came to talk to the residents Wednesday night and said he'd be willing to keep the center open, but couldn't pay the center's $1,000 monthly electric bill.
Locke said he's been working with churches and individuals to find alternatives for the residents. Resident Andy Houser said Locke was trying to work out a deal with the Dusty Motel to buy rooms for up to four days. But he and other residents are trying to raise enough money to pay the NorthWestern Power Co. bill for one more month.
"A 30-day solution is better than a four-day solution," Houser said. "We have four families, here so it gives them a little more time to find a place."
Houser said to raise money, Lighthouse residents will have a donation-only garage sale at the Big Sky Christian Center, 116 Bowman Road, starting Saturday at 9 a.m.
They're also requesting donations. Houser said checks could be made out to the Big Sky Christian Center, but realizes some people would be suspicious of donating money to Himes' operation after he was charged with fraud, among other crimes.
Houser said the checks could be made out to NorthWestern Energy, but mailed to P.O Box 540. Houser asked for no cash donations.
After talking with residents again on Thursday, Locke extended the Lighthouse grace period to Monday, after which everyone is out of the shelter if they can't pay the bill.
"After Monday, they will be in a landlord-tenant relationship with Himes," Locke said.
A district judge issued a warrant for Himes and Bryant after the state Commissioner of Securities and Insurance charged them with theft, fraud, conspiracy and failure to register a security and failure to register to sell that security.
In 2008, the two allegedly promised a man a 20-percent return on his $150,000 and 5-percent ownership in their company, Duratherm Building Systems. After getting the run-around, the victim claimed he received no monetary return, receipts or certificate of ownership and couldn't get his money back.
Bryant remains at large, but normally spends much of his time in Mexico where Duratherm supposedly operates.
Reporter Laura Lundquist can be reached at 363-3300 or at email@example.com.