A crucial question was tweeted by the MTPR news director yesterday:: Had Ben Jacobs been the body slammer and the candidate the body slam-ee, would Jacobs have avoided jail time altogether? The answer is almost certainly No.
And yet at Gianforte’s court hearing on Monday, Marty Lambert, the Republican Bozeman prosecutor who must run for election every four years, sought no jail time for Gianforte and put up little resistance to Gianforte’s defense team’s maneuvers. Lambert never even requested that Gianforte perform community service or anger counseling, as the Judge ultimately ordered. Lambert sought only a deferred sentence and a $385 fine. A traffic ticket, in essence.
The question leading into this event was whether power and wealth get Gianforte less punishment than an ordinary citizen would receive, and the answer is now certainly YES. First, Gianforte was not arrested initially for having body slammed Ben Jacobs. He was instead written a citation and allowed to walk, despite several credible witnesses telling cops that Gianforte violently attacked him unprovoked. Lambert praised this police decision.
Lambert also made no objection to Gianforte’s request that he be allowed to forego the “booking” process. Had an ordinary citizen been the defendant at yesterday’s circus, once the final sentence had been pronounced (40 hours community service, 20 hours anger management counseling), the defendant would have been fingerprinted and mug-shotted, and then allowed to leave. But Gianforte’s team prevailed upon the Judge to consider, at a later date, the merits of whether Gianforte should have to undergo booking. And Lambert made no objection to their motion. So it’s now to be argued and decided, at a later hearing, with briefs and arguments, the absurd question of whether he should be processed like everyone else who is sentenced to community service for having assaulted someone.
The question going forward as pertains to Lambert is whether this abysmal performance will cause him to draw and opponent in the 2018 race. He has run unopposed for almost twenty years, a circumstance that owes itself to the fact that in the early days of Lambert’s career, Gallatin county was a solidly Republican electorate. But it’s now pretty solidly Democrat. Quist beat Gianforte in Gallatin; Bullock cleaned his clock there; Hillary beat Trump by 5 points. Obama beat Romney. Gallatin valley is now a Democratic valley and Bozeman a democratic town, and Lambert tried to play footsy with a defendant, because the defendant will soon be a powerful person. Lambert blinked. But now the question is, will anyone hold him–and thus hold Gianforte–accountable?