AG Knudsen Says Fentanyl is the Biggest Threat Facing Montana Right Now
KGVO spent a full hour on Thursday’s Talk Back program with Montana’s Attorney General Austin Knudsen.
Knudsen was relieved to announce that Lloyd Barrus, one half of the father and son team who ambushed and murdered Broadwater County Deputy Mason Moore in May of 2016, was finally sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
“We just got a ruling literally on the three year anniversary of Deputy Moore's murder, that Lloyd Barrus is going to spend the rest of his life in the Montana State Prison and not in the mental hospital in Warm Springs,” began Knudsen. “So finally some closure for Deputy Moore's family and for the citizens of Montana and for Broadwater County.”
Knudsen drew a parallel between the Barrus case and that of Jonathan Bertsch, who murdered two people and critically wounded two others, including Montana Highway Patrol Trooper Wade Palmer in 2019. Both Barrus and Bertsch made every effort to serve their sentences in the State Hospital at Warm Springs, instead of at the Montana State Prison in Deer Lodge.
“The parallel between those cases; both were obviously horrific cases; that it shows us all just how serious and dangerous police work and law enforcement work can be,” he said. “But the parallel on both of those cases and I find interesting that both of those defendants basically tried to using the insanity plea to get themselves out of spending the rest of their lives in the Montana State Prison. Again, kudos where they belong. My Prosecution Services Bureau here at the Department of Justice are just rock stars. They are six for six this last year in deliberate homicide conviction trials in Montana. This is a team of prosecutors you do not want prosecuting you as a defendant, and they helped out in both of those cases and did just a fantastic job.”
Knudsen’s office is also heavily involved in the fight against human trafficking in Montana, and referenced a successful arrest and prosecution.
“Just about a week and a half ago, we got a great conviction down in Billings,” he said. “This was a guy who was trafficking girls. He never set foot in state of Montana. This was a guy who was based in New Mexico. He was sending underage minor girls up with another one of his girls, and he was coming up here pimping her out, just no nice way to say that. But we got a fantastic conviction on this guy just about a week and a half ago out of Billings.”
Knudsen also emphasized the problem with drugs such as methamphetamine and fentanyl coming in from the southern border.
“All hyperbole aside, I truly think this is the biggest threat facing our state right now,” he said. “Our crime rates, especially our violent crime rates, they're spiking right now, and not in small amounts. They're going up significantly 30, 40, and 50 percent in some of these categories, and it's all tied to the drug problem.”
The Talk Back phone lines were full all during Knudsen’s visit to KGVO. Click here to listen to the full conversation.