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Boniek claims court lacks legitimacy

 

On Tuesday a former state legislator and candidate for lieutenant governor declared the misdemeanor criminal case against him dismissed after a justice of the peace adjourned proceedings amid disruption in the courtroom.

The judge says the case is still on, just delayed.

 

JOEL BONIEK

 

Joel Boniek, 51, of Paradise Valley, appeared in Park County’s Justice Court Monday afternoon for a court proceeding in which he and Justice of the Peace Linda Budeski and Deputy County Attorney Kathleen Carrick were slated to set a trial date. 

Boniek, a Republican, served in the state House of Representatives in 2009 as the representative for House District 61. He lost his bid for re-election when he was challenged by long-time Republican state legislator John Esp of Big Timber. Boniek also was the running mate to Pray resident Bob Fanning, who ran in this year’s Republican primary for the governor’s race. Their bid for the primary was unsuccessful.

In July, Boniek was arrested on misdemeanor charges of obstructing a peace officer, resisting arrest and fleeing from or eluding a peace officer. He has pleaded not guilty.

Prosecutors say he failed to stop at an emergency roadblock set up near his home in the Paradise Valley during a July wildfire. They say he also refused to comply with officers’ orders.

In court Monday, Boniek appeared without an attorney but with many supporters, who filled the courtroom to standing room only save for a few other citizens and attorneys who were present for unrelated court matters.

Boniek told Budeski he had concerns about the matter at hand, including whether county employees handling the case had proper credentials and fulfilled criteria required by law, he said. 

“This is not the time and place to be doing this,” Carrick said to Boniek and Budeski after Boniek broached his concerns. The proceeding was simply intended to set a trial date, she said.

“Your honor, why is this woman even speaking if she can’t prove she’s (a public official)?” Boniek responded, addressing Budeski. 

A Boniek supporter in the room joined in, voicing support for Boniek’s questions. Budeski told him he was out of order.

“Bulls--t, you’re out of order,” he replied. 

The man kept speaking as Budeski asked for order in the court. Law enforcement officers, who had been present at the hearing since it started, approached the man, whom the judge requested be escorted from the courtroom.

At some point, as the man continued to protest and a few other citizens voiced their support for Boniek and opposition to the proceedings, Budeski announced court was adjourned and walked out. Livingston Police Department officers and Park County Sheriff’s Office deputies tried to escort people out of the courtroom, although many initially declined to leave.

“The judge has left the room, I’m in charge now,” Boniek said. 

“No, you’re not,” an officer responded. 

“I’m supposed to be here for my own case,” said a man who looked perplexed by the events.

During the disruption, law enforcement officers also questioned Boniek about a “lump” an officer said he noticed under Boniek’s jacket. Officers asked Boniek if they could check whether the lump was a firearm, which are prohibited in the courthouse. Boniek declined to allow them to do so.

During an interview outside the City County Complex after court adjourned, Boniek said he’s concerned that the county officials involved lack the credentials required by Montana law to act in an official capacity. Among those requirements are that public officials be bonded and have proof of taking particular oaths, he said. 

“No county official has proper credentials to hold public office,” he said. “I read the law in open court that says they have to have bonds. The county officials assured me no one had bonds.”

During an interview Monday afternoon, Carrick said that while county officials do not have “bonds,” they are insured and that insurance serves the same purpose as bonds. She also refuted Boniek’s other contentions, saying that Park County follows state law and fulfills the many requirements specified in Montana’s legal code. 

Boniek, who said he seeks only “fairness and just treatment,” and several of his supporters say they can cite numerous examples of ways in which Park County officials are not in compliance with state law, and state and federal constitutional mandates. 

And if public officials aren’t upholding the law themselves, there are serious implications for citizens and what rules they must follow when the rules are set by public officials, they said. 

“The people expect me to abide by the law — but they do not and will not,” Boniek said, saying he was referring to law enforcement and court officials. 

Boniek said his case was now over in light of Monday’s events.

“The judge abandoned the courtroom, and I announced the case dismissed as the last man standing in the courtroom,” he said. 

Budeski on Monday said that despite Boniek’s take on the matter, the case is not dismissed. The court will have to send him another summons to appear and determine a trial date, she said.