Brent went to trial on Monday and was found guilty Tuesday morning. That's swift even by Montana standards, where it can be under a year from arrest to conviction for murder without a confession, and under six months with one. It's not like I'm surprised or anything. Sentencing is scheduled for 19 August. The maximum punishment is 30 years in prison for the three felonies, six months in jail for the misdemeanor, and a $151,000 fine. I don't have a clue as to what the likely sentence will be. Judge Christopher might throw his ass in prison for 20 years just to save Lake county the cost of another trial.
Peering through reading glasses, accused house thief Brent Arthur Wilson spent the first day of his trial Monday alone at the defense table and seemingly uninterested in what was unfolding around him, poring over what appeared to be an Internal Revenue Service publication instead.
A few feet away, Lake County prosecutor Jessica Cole-Hodgkinson told a jury of nine men and three women that a year ago Wilson was unemployed, deeply in debt and living in a travel trailer.
But, she said, he was a "man with a plan," and the plan was to steal area homes in foreclosure - up to 100 of them, according to journals seized by authorities after they executed a search warrant on his residence.
Brent's residence at that time being another house he was attempting to steal. That's making sure every i is dotted and every t is crossed with the same colored ink.
Wilson, who has refused all attempts by District Court Judge Kim Christopher to appoint him legal counsel, didn't lift a finger in his own defense outside of repeatedly telling the judge that as far as he's concerned, he appears in her courtroom not as a criminal defendant, but only as the beneficiary to a trust in his name.
For anyone coming in late, Brent has repeatedly asked Judge Christopher to be the trustee of the BRENT ARTHUR WILSON Trust. As she kept declining one can only assume the trustee of Brent's other trusts - "the creator, Yahweh" - has taken up that position.
He didn't ask a single question of potential jurors during the morning's jury selection, didn't exercise his right to preemptory challenges of any jurors, didn't object to the introduction of any evidence, and didn't cross-examine a single witness.
At times he appeared so engrossed in his reading material that only the silence in the courtroom made him aware the judge had addressed him and was waiting for an answer.
"Thank you for the question," Wilson said each time Christopher asked if he wanted to cross-examine someone, "but I appear only as the beneficiary. That question needs to be addressed to the trustee."
I can already see where this is going. The basis of Brent's appeal will be that the trustee, i.e. God, was not allowed to be involved in the trial. However, since God is omniscient and omnipresent, He was there and aware of all questions, statements, evidence, etc. and could have said something anytime He wanted to. Even if prosecutor Cole-Hodgkinson said, "a trustee who apparently exists in his [Brent Arthur Wilson's] mind only."
The Missoulian didn't name the "Missoula financial institution" where Brent tried to get a loan for $125,000 using the property in question as collateral, nor how far into the loan process he got. While I don't care all that much as to which bank / credit union / savings & loan was involved, just how deep into a home equity loan on property he didn't own is key to this symbolic denouement of the real estate pyramid scheme.
Not much happened on Tuesday. A couple more witnesses, the prosecution's closing statement, and it took less than hour for a guilty verdict. The verdict was the banner headline on today's edition, but there was a lot of padding with recap to justify that, because you can't run an above-the-fold story that's only five paragraphs long. Plus there's not enough crazy, irony, or anything else to make up for the entire comics page not getting printed. In any event, from the Missoulian:
Brent Arthur Wilson sat at his defense table alone on Tuesday, reading the Bible as jurors filed into the courtroom and delivered unanimous guilty verdicts in the peculiar case of a pilfered home.
Sentencing date, maximum possible punishment, recapping the saga, favorite wackiness, possibility of more charges, and at the very end the buried lede:
Cole-Hodgkinson said the spurious documents Wilson filed "created a cloud on the title," and he even scrawled his name into the property tract books maintained by the clerk and recorder's office.
"Of all the crimes that the defendant committed, that was probably the most heinous. The most far-reaching," she said, adding that people rely on those records when choosing their investments.
"I think he undermined everyone's sense of security," Cole-Hodgkinson said.
Susan Newton has worked in the Lake County Clerk and Recorder's Office since 1982, and has always felt the records should be accessible to the public. The way Wilson manipulated the records has her second-guessing that policy.
"We're a small county and we'd like to keep our books open to the public, but after this we may have to re-evaluate that," Newton said.
Anyone who has bought, sold, or taken out a loan for property knows the importance of a title search. Any hiccup can delay or derail the process, and this is why it's important to know how far Brent got in getting a home equity loan. It's like identity theft, in that once some jerk screws with your credit history you're the one who ends up paying for it.
The AP picked up the guilty verdict and ran an abbreviated version of the Missoulian's report.
I missed the report of a hearing on 1 July. Here's a video of Judge Christopher and Lake County prosecutor Cole-Hodgkinson repeatedly trying to tell Brent all the different ways he can stop being stupid and get a shorter sentence. Brent will have the last laugh. He's successfully stolen housing, food, and medical coverage from the state of Montana, and will continue to do so for how ever long he's sentenced.