April 16, 2012
Former Butte Montana city judge, Steven Kambich, convicted of bribery in federal court was sentenced this week to paying $5000 in restitution, far less than even the total of the bribes he accepted, and five years of probation. He faced fines of $250,000, a prison sentence of up to 10 years and 3 years of supervised release. Kambich offered guilty pleas in January for accepting bribes in excess of $13,000 in exchange for dismissing traffic tickets and other citations. He was accused of a variety of other corrupt practices unbecoming of any human being let alone an elected official.
In a January 13, 2012 press release related to the case, U.S. Attorney Michael Cotter said:
“There are few positions in the law more powerful than that of a judge. Judges have the authority to change individual lives with their actions. Former Silver Bow County City Judge Steve Kambich pled guilty today in Federal Court to accepting bribes – usually in the form of cash or checks – for dismissing traffic and other misdemeanor tickets. The prosecution of Kambich sends a strong message that public corruption will not be tolerated and when detected it will be prosecuted.”
Sounds more like a slap on the wrist to me, especially when the punishment is contrasted with sentences facing former medical marijuana caregiver Chris Lindsey. Although he has not been accused of breaking any state laws, the Missoula attorney is facing federal mandatory sentences ranging from 690 years to 25 consecutive life sentences with an additional 85 years for good measure.
What ever happened to the guidelines contained within the infamous Ogden memo? In the memorandum, the Department of Justice said that it was committed to the “efficient and rational use” of its resources and that prosecuting patients and distributors who are in “clear and unambiguous compliance” with state laws did not meet that standard.
Lindsey may indeed have been in “clear and unambiguous compliance” with Montana’s medical marijuana laws, but we may never hear about that in court as evidence indicating adherence to state laws is inadmissible in prosecutions for violating federal laws.
Bribery by a corrupt judge warrants a more lenient sentence than those that medical cannabis providers receive? In what sort of world is the dismissal of charges in exchange for cash a lesser crime than advising a medical marijuana business of their rights and responsibilities under state law? Even monsters like Charles Manson have parole opportunities periodically. This isn’t the case in federal cases where inmates serve 85% of their sentences at minimum.
Life presents us with many injustices and often reforms are only possible after exhausting struggles. Familiarize yourself with jury nullification at www.fija.org. Education is the answer. Please share this story in any way possible- via social media, telling everyone you know, writing a letter to the editor, however you see fit. A tyrannical federal government affects us all. The oppressive muscle of the fed knows no bounds- now it is medical marijuana, but what is next? Guns? Healthcare? Education? Whether you use medical marijuana or not, please don’t be so naive as to believe that this doesn’t affect you. I am haunted by this injustice. Law enforcement is in theory a comforting sight. Good people aren’t supposed to fear federal agents yet when I see anyone with a badge, I am faced with the reality that one day I could be in a similar position as Chris. Although I am not a marijuana user nor am I a marijuana provider, simply discussing becoming one is a federal crime. Most of us commit federal crimes every day without even realizing it. Chris is your neighbor, your friend, your mentor, your brother, your father, your husband, he is me and he is you.
There is no crueler tyranny than that which is perpetuated under the shield of law and in the name of justice.” –Charles de Montesquieu