Former Mont. state senator sentenced in boat crash

A former Montana state senator accepted a sentence Thursday that will allow him to avoid jail and eventually expunge his record for a 2009 boat crash that injured U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg and fou...

A former Montana state senator accepted a sentence Thursday that will allow him to avoid jail and eventually expunge his record for a 2009 boat crash that injured U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg and four other people, his attorney said.

Kalispell Republican Greg Barkus was given a four-year deferred prison sentence, $29,000 in fines and supervised probation, attorney Todd Glazier said. Barkus can apply to have his record expunged after 18 months.

District Judge John McKeon proposed that sentence after rejecting a plea agreement that called for a three-year deferred prison term, $4,000 in fines and unsupervised probation.

After a brief recess for Barkus to confer with his attorney, the former senator accepted the sentence proposed by McKeon.

Glazier dismissed questions that Barkus received preferential treatment because of his position. The former senator has no criminal background and he has the support of the victims, Glazier said.

"For anybody that thinks he's getting a good deal because of who he is, that's absolutely not the case," Glazier told The Associated Press. "He probably got a worse deal than what would have happened if the press was never involved."

Barkus pleaded no contest last month to felony criminal endangerment for crashing his boat on the rocky shores of Flathead Lake after a night of drinking Aug. 27, 2009.

On board were Rehberg, two of the Montana Republican's staffers, Barkus and his wife.

Prosecutors say Barkus' blood-alcohol level was 0.16 percent after the crash. Barkus has disputed that he was drunk and instead blamed a faulty global positioning system.

Rehberg's former state director, Dustin Frost, was in a coma for about 10 days after the crash. He underwent intensive physical therapy and was cleared to return to work about three months after the crash.

Rehberg suffered cracked ribs and a fractured eye socket. Also, a left leg bone was sheared just above his foot, and Rehberg has said the only thing holding the foot on was his cowboy boot.

Rehberg's deputy chief of staff, Kristin Smith, suffered several broken bones and Barkus suffered a broken pelvis. The extent of Kathy Barkus' injuries have not been reported.

Greg Barkus was prevented from running for re-election this year due to term limits.

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