Biggest local stories of 2021: AG gets involved in COVID-19 disputes

Jesse Chaney

After taking office in January 2021, Montana’s Republican Attorney General Austin Knudsen wasted no time getting involved in various COVID-19 disputes.

In January, Knudsen said he was exercising his supervisory powers by ordering Gallatin County Attorney Marty Lambert to dismiss a case against a Bozeman bar that refused to comply with the public health mandates in place to slow the spread of COVID-19. Lambert initially refused, noting that the state of Montana was not a party to the case, but he and the owners of the Rocking R Bar later agreed to drop the case following changes to the local health rules in Gallatin County.

In August, Knudsen’s office directed Lewis and Clark County Attorney Leo Gallagher to drop two misdemeanor conceal-carry charges against a Helena man who was arrested after allegedly flashing a gun and physically attacking local restaurant employees who repeatedly asked him to comply with the statewide mask mandate in place at the time. Gallagher refused to drop the charges but turned over the case to the Attorney General’s Office, which allowed the defendant to admit to a lesser charge of disturbing the peace and pay a $50 fine as part of a plea

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