Montana State Sen. Greg Barkus, who crashed his boat in a lake with four passengers aboard, including Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-MT), was charged today with one count of criminal endangerment and two counts of negligent vehicular assault, the Flathead county attorney’s office confirmed to TPMmuckraker.
The charges, which can be read in full here, allege that Barkus was drunk on the night of August 27 and that his actions on Flathead Lake endangered the life of Rehberg.
Reached at his home this afternoon by TPMmuckraker, Barkus said he had not heard of the charges, all of which are felonies. He said he had no comment on the matter.
The complaint describes a night of revelry by the group, which attended an “‘end of the summer’ dinner at the Docks Restaurant in Lakeside” and “left by boat a little after 10:00 p.m.” Bottles of red and white wine were out at the dinner, according Kristin Smith, one of the passengers and Rehberg’s deputy chief of staff. Barkus had two drinks (Dewars) and “was basically drinking … red wine for the rest of the night,” Smith is quoted as saying.
Nearly two hours after the accident, Barkus’ blood alcohol level came in at .16, or twice the legal limit, according to the complaint.
On September 9, however, Rehberg told reporters that Barkus had not appeared impaired. The congressman said he himself had just two beers at dinner that night.
The accident left Rehberg, who suffered a shattered ankle, walker-bound and his state director, Dustin Frost, with what has been described as a “severe head injury.”
County Attorney Ed Corrigan alleges that Barkus “knowingly engaged in conduct that created a substantial risk of death or serious bodily injury to others, Dennis Rehberg, Kristin Smith, Dustin Frost, and Kathy Barkus … “
There is a warrant out for Barkus’ arrest, according to Vickie Eggum, office administrator for the county attorney’s office.
This is how the crash sequence is described in the complaint:
Ms. Smith further stated “we were definitely heading like, full speed, straight forward” when she first realized they were about to hit the shoreline. Ms. Smith’s statement is corroborated by a nearby camper who reported hearing a boat immediately before the crash.
From scrape marks and debris patterns, investigating officers belive the boat was traveling north when it struck the shoreline at an angle of approximately 30 degeres, went airborne, and then crashed into the rocks and cliff where it came to rest.
The boat was going as fast as 45 miles-per-hour.
Eggum said once Barkus is arrested there will be an initial appearance before a justice of the peace, who will advise him of his rights. She expects he will be arraigned in two to three weeks.
Rehberg’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.