You’d probably think that Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery’s moral compass is tried and true. It certainly should be, as he leads one of the nation’s largest public prosecutorial agencies. His office chooses who to charge, what to charge, and what pleas to offer in this gigantic county of ours, and for most of the individuals his deputies prosecute, he might as well be omnipotent. Unfortunately, his ability to distinguish right and wrong, and accordingly the good guys from the bad guys, seems deeply flawed.
In a recent debate with my friend (and awesome criminal defense attorney) Marc Victor, he called a US military veteran an “enemy” for smoking marijuana. The New Times described the exchange, which occurred during a question and answer session at the end of the debate:
The next man, Don Ream, didn’t actually have a question — he invited Montgomery to sit down with him at the clinic where he works and talk to patients. The white-haired senior citizen, wearing his Arizona medical-cannabis card around his neck on a lanyard, told Montgomery he’s a Vietnam veteran and medicinal-marijuana patient who found Montgomery’s “pothead” comment offensive.
People called vets like him “baby killers” when they got home from Vietnam, he said, while others called him a hero. The “truth of war” is that veterans are both, Ream opined. He added that he feels sorry for Montgomery because he’s “been deceived” — then gives the county attorney a crisp salute.
Montgomery appeared to be somewhat incensed by the display, but points out that he was making a distinction between medical and recreational use of marijuana.
“I’m a recreational user, too,” the man responded.
“Well, then you’re violating the law, and I have no respect for you,” Montgomery fumed. “And I have no respect for someone who would try to claim that you served this country and took an oath to uphold the constitution and defend against all enemies foreign and domestic, because you’re an enemy.”
Montgomery is an amazing combination of judgmental and clueless, and it’s really something to behold. Just watch the video. I’d say it’s fascinating, but it’s really more terrifying in light of the fact he has so much damn power.
Here is a man who calls a veteran an “enemy” in public for fighting for our country but smoking something that grows naturally from the earth. He called that veteran and other people “pothead” earlier. And when he isn’t calling people names, he’s spewing doublespeak. To Montgomery, defending the constitution somehow equals saying no to drugs. Nevermind that the drug war is a relatively new thing in the long history of our country, yet it has maybe done more damage to the constitution and the rights it provides citizens than anything else in our history. Nevermind that the war itself is waged without a constitutional amendment, unlike prohibition. I’ve always wondered how that works. A smart person could easily conclude that it’s Montgomery who’s violating his oath to uphold the constitution by being part of an unconstitutional war. None of that matters to Montgomery, though, because the law is the law. To him, enemy really just means someone who does what he doesn’t think they should do, even if its something most people in the country don’t believe should be illegal.
His other “enemies” are just as unusual. How about a 16-year-old girl who killed a 43-year-old man who was committing a felony sex crime against her? Or the immigrants he still prosecutes for victimless crimes he only theorizes might someday be a problem for someone? Here was his comment a while back about what he was doing to one poor woman whose only crime was making up a social security number so she could work:
A religious man, Montgomery was asked what he would tell Jesus Christ in the afterlife, should his lord and savior ask him why his office treated an otherwise law-abiding mom like Rascon so callously.
After a pause, he responds, “That I did what I had to do. That I rendered unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.”
So he is washing his hands, like Pontius Pilate?
“Oh, no, and to compare the two is outrageous!” he says, later adding, “Jesus didn’t take anyone’s identity.”
Nothing has changed since that quote, as you can see by his comments at the recent debate. Whatever other people done is more than enough to justify what Bill Montgomery wants to do to them, whether it’s a relatively harmless drug offense or a crime that hurts no one. His merciless application of the law isn’t entirely consistent, though.
When the Arizona Department of Public Safety recommended criminal charges against two Phoenix Fire Department captains for false swearing due to their involvement in a woman’s wrongful arrest and charges, Montgomery declined to prosecute them. When a deputy county attorney in his office, one who prosecuted gun offenses, created and used an illegal suppressor on a rifle, no charges there either. And, of course, who could forget his office’s recent decision not to charge a cop who fatally shot an unarmed suspect in the back.
I really have no clue what sort of twisted sense of right and wrong our county’s top prosecutor has, except that I can tell he is very solemn and religious about his bad choices. The rest is a mystery to me, as his decisions about who is a friend and who is an enemy appear both inflexible and illogical. Honestly, the only thing I can really say about the guy is that his sense of professional courtesy toward friends in law enforcement is above reproach.
Filed under: Prosecutors · Tags: bill montgomery, county attorney, dca, deputy, drug war, enemy, forgery, immigration, Marijuana, MCAO, murder, prosecutor, self-defense, sex offense, veteran, william montgomery