By Myers Reece, 1-21-13
A Lake County sheriff’s sergeant who admitted to lying about his military record and is a defendant in a corruption-related lawsuit in federal court has resigned.
Sgt. Dan Duryee, whose last day was Jan. 3, is one of four current and former members of the Lake County Sheriff’s Office named as defendants in a lawsuit alleging their roles in illegal activities and corruption, including violations of the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act.
Multiple media reports cited Undersheriff Dan Yonkin in confirming Duryee’s resignation. Yonkin didn’t return a message, but in other media accounts he didn’t give a reason for the resignation, nor did Sheriff Jay Doyle.
In the lawsuit, filed last February in U.S. District Court in Missoula, five current and former officers accuse Duryee and three other colleagues of retaliating against them for their efforts to expose corruption within the sheriff’s department.
The trial is expected to begin in March. The three other defendants are Doyle, Yonkin and Detective Mike Sargeant. The five plaintiffs are Steve Kendley, Terry Leonard, Levi Read, Ben Woods and Mike Gehl.
The lawsuit outlines allegations of illegal and unethical behavior by the defendants, including some that have surfaced over the past few years in multiple investigations into the Lake County Sheriff’s Office.
One investigation by the Montana Public Safety Officer Standards and Training Council (POST) prompted a 2010 recommendation to revoke Duryee’s law certification, after determining he had lied about his military record for more than a decade.
In a June 2010 report, a POST compliance officer wrote that, despite claims to the contrary, Duryee had never engaged in military combat operations nor had he served in the U.S. Marine Corps.
“After his military service was disproven, Duryee continued to make false claims to members of the public,” the POST officer wrote.
The POST report, which included sworn statements by fellow officers, stated that Duryee had possibly gained unwarranted positions within the department, including command of the Special Response Team, which is Lake County’s SWAT team.
“It is evident that Duryee was allowed to be a member of the Special Response Team and a sniper without attending any formal training based on his false claims of military service and combat experience,” the report stated.
The POST report described another allegation in which an officer gave a sworn statement that he witnessed Duryee gather skull fragments from a suicide victim to give to a fellow deputy to train her cadaver dog.
Duryee admitted to making a false claim about his military record but said it only happened once. He was briefly placed on administrative leave in late 2010 and then returned to the force. But POST reopened an investigation into Duryee and served him last year with a notice for a hearing to decide whether he should have his certification revoked.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives also investigated Duryee for an allegation that he illegally manufactured and possessed a machine gun but didn’t charge him.
Duryee is the second member of the Lake County Sheriff’s Office in the last year to resign amidst allegations of misconduct. Last January, former Undersheriff Karey Reynolds resigned during an investigation by the state Attorney General’s Office in which he was accused of perjury for allegedly falsifying information in an affidavit for a search warrant.
The Attorney General’s Office determined that Reynolds did in fact provide false information about his law enforcement experience in the affidavit but ruled that the incident didn’t warrant a criminal perjury charge. Reynolds said at the time that his resignation was due to restructuring within the office, and not the investigation.
In the same June 2012 decision, the Attorney General’s Office also cleared the Lake County Sheriff’s Office of two other criminal allegations.
A multi-year poaching investigation by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks has not resulted in any criminal charges either. Investigation documents, citing dozens of interviews, detail allegations of widespread poaching by some members of Lake County law enforcement, including the sheriff’s office and tribal police.
Those poaching allegations are detailed in the district court lawsuit, with the plaintiffs accusing Duryee, Doyle and Sargeant of belonging to an illegal poaching club known as the “Coyote Club.”
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