No Prison Time For Former Butte Judge, Sentenced To Probation


By Alyx Sacks

POSTED: 1:25 pm MDT April 13, 2012


Leniency for corruption

BUTTE, Mont. — Former Butte city judge Steve Kambich received five-year probation Friday in his sentencing hearing in Butte federal court.

Kambich, 53, pleaded guilty to felony bribery taking more than $13,000 from defendants in at least 10 court cases he heard between 2008 and 2009.

Montana U.S. District Court Judge Dana Christensen sentenced Kambich to pay restitution of $5,000, serve 200 hours of community service, with no less than five hours a week, in addition to the five-year probation. Judge Christensen claims the sentence is “sufficient, but not greater than necessary.”

In court, Kambich’s attorney David Vicevich, explained to Judge Christensen that his client has taken full responsibility, has been publicly humiliated, and has lost both his jobs.

“Mr. Kambich is the ideal candidate for a probationary sentence because his offense is non-violent, he poses no risk to the community; he has accepted responsibility for his actions,” Vicevich said in court documents.“He already has suffered great punishment through the public humiliation and embarrassment caused by this offense and the loss of public office, his other employment, and his loss of judicial and law enforcement certification.”

Judge Christensen asked both Kambich and his attorney why Kambich accepted bribes.

Kambich offered no explanation and said he is seeking counseling both with a physiatrist and through his church to get a better understanding.

Kambich’s family as well as community members were present during the sentencing.

Kambich was facing a maximum sentence of 10 years imprisonment and a $250,000.00 fine.


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.”

Chris Lindsey faces up to 25 consecutive life sentences for adhering to state medical marijuana laws.

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  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

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BUTTE, Mont. (AP) — A Butte-Silver Bow County justice of the peace faces another 22 felony counts of fraudulently obtaining dangerous drugs.

The charges were filed against Bob Lee in District Court in Jefferson County on Monday, three days after a dozen felony charges for the same crime were filed against him in Anaconda.

Prosecutors say Lee obtained 35 methadone prescriptions from doctors in Anaconda, Whitehall and Butte in 2010 and filled them at separate pharmacies to conceal the amount of methadone he was using. Investigators also say a confidential informant told them the judge bought pharmaceutical narcotics from a suspected drug trafficker in Butte.

Lee, who is in his late 60s, is scheduled to appear in District Court in Anaconda on Feb. 8, though it remains unclear if both sets of charges will be combined into one case.

The Montana Standard reports neither Lee nor his attorney, Bill O’Leary, returned calls seeking comment Monday.

Lee received a one-year deferred sentence Friday after pleading no contest to misdemeanor negligent endangerment. Prosecutors said he drove to the courthouse under the influence of methadone on Nov. 13, 2010.

Read more:

Justice Robert Lee appears in Jefferson Co. Court Before Judge Loren Tucker

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BILLINGS  — After a Lewistown judge slapped his female law clerk’s butt with a folder, the clerk first sued her boss. Now she wants his job.

Attorney Britt Long characterizes her election bid to replace Judge E. Wayne Phillips on the bench in Montana’s 10th Judicial District as a battle against an entrenched status quo that doesn’t want her to speak up.

To Read More:

I could go on and on showing you the documentation of more judges.  This is completely ridiculous. What I find more ridiculous is that I’ve sat in the courtroom and have listened to one of these judges use the same recommendation that was given but instead of any leniency he gave the maximum and then some.  Must be nice to be part of the Montana Judges Club.  Must be nice to be any part of the Montana Justice Department System.  They seem to have all the “Go Free Jail Cards” while the rest of us get sent to prison forever.    What do you think my fellow Montanans?  


  1. It will be interesting to see on the 31st of May if the bank teller in Kalispell for the same crime gets probation like the judge from Butte. On her crime of embezzlement I do support the probation and restitution. But the judge operating from a position of elected power should pay higher price than the rest of the population. To help restore some sort of respect for the judicial system. I can’t make any assessment of Judge Phillips in Lewistown because I knew him when we were growing up in Lewistown and his reputation for being fair is a good one around Fergus County. He did get his seat by a write in vote. To me that speaks volumes about his integrity. When we have Chief Justice that made the comment like Judge McGrath did when John Bremguard was released after 16 years as an innocent man convicted by corrupt police and trumped up forensics then we have a real problem with justice in Montana.
    The Comment:
    “It doesn’t bother me: If it was up to me he would still be in prison”.
    My Gosh: What kind of a low life got elected?

    • I agree with you. I am just showing the differences of these situations with judges compared to if it were any other citizen of Montana with the same charges or accusations. The average citizen would have already been found guilty and convicted just based on the issue with Judge Phillips. No matter how good of a guy or reputation. Yes, it will be interesting to see what happens with the bank teller in Kalispell after this judge received a lenient sentence. From past history the average Joe would not have received such grace. As far as Judge McGrath making that kind of comment about John Bremguard who was innocent and served 16 years due to corruption…makes him sound just as corrupt. That is a horrible statement that he gave and it speaks volumes about his ethics.

    • Not that I have heard of. We just have to spread the word, Montanans need to know what is going on in our state. People need to know. This is ridiculous!!

  2. For one Phillips was gotten rid of because he was not part of DPHHS,POLICE,and COUNTY ATTORNEYS corruption. Has anyone heard anything on a judge John Brown in Bozeman being corrupt?

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