Republican state senator tries to weasel out of ticket in Montana, claiming constitutional immunity

Republican state senator tries to weasel out of ticket in Montana, claiming constitutional immunity

Asking “do you know who I am?” is never a great tactic when you’re pulled over by the cops—especially when hardly anyone knows who you are. It’s one thing if you’re Mel Gibson and antisemitism basically oozes from your pores. Cops know who you are, and they expect bad behavior from your sodden arse. They may not expect you to brand a new kids’ cereal while you’re off on your tirade, but the general outlines are pretty well drawn beforehand. 

Not so if you’re a nondescript state legislator from Montana. If you’re that cat, you may just want to take your lumps when you’re caught going 33 mph over the posted speed limit. And whatever you do, you shouldn’t pull out a copy of the Montana Constitution to “prove” that you’re somehow cleared to recklessly murder people on the highway.

Montana state Senate President Pro Tempore Jason Ellsworth, a Republican, has been charged with obstruction of a peace officer after he was pulled over doing 88 mph in a construction zone, where the speed limit was 55.

State Sen. Jason Ellsworth

The charges, filed in May, were only recently reported. After he was stopped, Ellsworth reportedly showed his legislative ID to the state trooper and said he was on his way to a legislative council meeting scheduled for the next morning.

According to the The Montana Free Press:

The charging document says the officer returned to her vehicle to run a check on Ellsworth’s vehicle, which had plates issued from a car dealership, and print him a warning for excessive speed. As described in the complaint, Ellsworth then got out of his vehicle and approached the officer’s car against the trooper’s instructions, and was “mumbling something that could not be understood.”

Indicating that he had pulled up the Montana Constitution on his phone, Ellsworth then told the officer that he needed to be released, citing a provision that exempts legislators from arrest “during attendance at sessions of the Legislature and in going to and returning therefrom.”

The 67th Legislature adjourned April 29, roughly a month before Ellsworth was pulled over.

The charging document alleges that Ellsworth then claimed he would call Attorney General Austin Knudsen, who oversees the Montana Highway Patrol via the state Department of Justice.

“If you want me to call the attorney general …“ Ellsworth allegedly began.

“Go ahead and call him,” the trooper replied. “Back to your car now.”

“I would be happy to,” continued Ellsworth, according to the document. “I suggest you call your boss.”

For the record, Ellsworth appears to realize he fucked up. A statement issued by state Senate Republicans was appropriately conciliatory: “Senator Ellsworth respects and appreciates that the trooper and the county attorney are public servants who are doing their jobs with this traffic citation. He looks forward to resolving the matter and continuing to serve his constituents.”

Meanwhile, Knudsen told The Free Press, “The Senator’s behavior was inappropriate. The trooper’s handling of the situation is a testament to the professionalism of the Montana Highway Patrol.”

Of course, Ellsworth isn’t the first well-connected fucknut to run afoul of the law. 

In May 2018, New Mexico State Rep. Monica Youngblood, another Republican, was pulled over for a suspected DUI. The following exchange ensued, as reported by Daily Kos’ own Jessica Sutherland:

Youngblood: “I literally fight for you guys every time I get the chance.”

Montaño: ”That doesn’t make it okay to drink and drive.”

Youngblood: ”I fight for you guys every time I get the chance. Seriously. So many people tell me you guys treat people like shit and I didn’t believe it.”

Montaño: ”I’m not treating you poorly at all.”

Youngblood “It’s funny because you guys treat people of color [Youngblood is Hispanic] like shit and I always stand up for you guys…I always stick up for you guys…I say ‘you know what? They wouldn’t be treated like shit if there wasn’t a reason.’”

Then there’s the curious case of Marsha Blackburn, the esteemed Republican U.S. senator from the official national COVID-19 and measles sanctuary of Tennessee. According to a March CNN story, Blackburn’s car was pulled over by Capitol Police earlier this year while she was bolting the Capitol building to get a head start on the weekend:

Leo Kowalski, an aide to Blackburn, told his friends that after being pulled over, the senator “hopped out, flashed her pin, hopped back in the car [and] said ‘drive!'”

“Officer didn’t say a word, just shook his head,” the aide said in a text message, which was reviewed by CNN.

One source familiar with the account told CNN that Blackburn identified herself as a senator and was allowed to leave. The source added it’s unclear whether the responding officer made that call or was directed to let her go by a superior.

Hmm, must be nice.

Oh, and no doubt you’ve heard of this guy. Matt Gaetz sure as shit has:

Seminole County Tax Collector Joel Greenberg asked a Lake Mary Police officer for “professional courtesy” because he is an elected official as he tried to talk his way out of a ticket after he was pulled over for speeding Tuesday.

“I’m baffled that the professional courtesy is not being extended to at least issue a warning in something like this,” Greenberg can be heard on a police video telling a Lake Mary officer after he was issued a citation for traveling 39 mph in a 25 mph zone. “If there’s any way on earth — I’m just trying to stay off the front page of the damn newspaper: ‘Tax collector gets ticket.’ This is the kind of political crap I have to deal with.”

And as we now all know, Greenberg did a flawless job of keeping his name off the front page of the damn newspaper. 

This is never a good look for anyone, and, sadly, Democrats are not immune to this kind of behavior. But it is amusing. And in an era when Republicans are being flat-out reckless day after day after day, it can’t help their cause.

Sure, Montana is redder than Donald Trump’s eternally chafed, reality-denying ass, but the optics on this kind of thing are still bad—both in Montana and in the saner redoubts of our venerable republic.

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