Trial Date Set For PSC Commissioner
A lawyer defending Randy Pinocci said Wednesday, Jan. 31, he hopes three charges against the Public Service Commissioner will be dropped — but the Cascade County prosecutor said that doesn’t appear likely.
Pinocci, a Republican who represents a wide swath of central and eastern Montana, was arrested in September after failing to appear in court for a disorderly conduct misdemeanor charge.
He was arrested the following month on two felony charges of witness tampering. Pinocci has denied all charges and also disputed the validity of the warrant first issued for his arrest.
Last week, lawyer Mark Parker said a new trial date is set for April 30, but he hopes the county prosecutor will drop the charges.
“I just am unconvinced, with what I’ve seen, this matter should have been in criminal court,” said Parker, a Billings attorney. “But it is. And so it has to be taken seriously.”
However, Parker said his desk is piled high with “odd little claims” against both Republicans and Democrats in public office, and it concerns him.
Parker is also defending Attorney General Austin Knudsen in a high-profile complaint alleging disciplinary misconduct.
“I’m not suggesting political motivation in this (Pinocci’s) case, but we are scratching our heads why,” Parker said. “I tell you, it’s like every case. There’s evidence to support, evidence to confirm, every bias. So you’ve got to be careful.”
Pinocci leases out property, and the three charges are tied to a dispute with a tenant. He’s accused of quarreling and challenging the brother of a tenant to a fight — even though Pinocci said he himself made the 911 call.
He’s also accused of trying to force a witness to disavow testimony he gave to the sheriff’s office; Cascade County Sheriff Jesse Slaughter earlier quoted a text message from Pinocci that requested the witness recant.
Pinocci earlier denied the charges through an attorney.
On Wednesday, Cascade County Attorney Josh Racki said he supervises the attorney assigned to Pinocci’s case, but he wasn’t familiar with any developments that would lead to charges being dropped.
However, Racki said charges aren’t often dropped “absent a change in circumstances.” He said his office has reviewed witness statements and phone evidence, and he believes the case is likely to proceed.
“Based on that, we’ve decided there’s probable cause to charge the offense, and so we’re going to move forward with it. Sometimes that changes, but it’s not very often,” Racki said.