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After not guilty verdict, Orr advocates for criminal justice reform

by DERRICK PERKINS
Daily Inter Lake | February 1, 2022 7:00 AM

A failed Libby City Council candidate has become an unexpected advocate for criminal justice reform in Lincoln County in recent weeks.

Fresh off of being found not guilty on a charge of assault with a weapon — or criminal endangerment in the alternative — Darrel “DC” Orr has repeatedly petitioned the Lincoln County Board of Commissioners to take action against the county attorney’s office. He also leveled charges of serious wrongdoing against the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office.

“I think the most important takeaway is that I have accused your sheriff’s office and county attorney of corruption,” Orr said during the public comment portion of a Jan. 26 commissioners meeting.

Authorities arrested Orr in May following a property dispute on City Service Road that allegedly ended with him buzzing by a Montana Sky employee at a high rate of speed in his pickup truck. The employee, Amber Pacheco-Holm, and two witnesses backed up that version of events in court. Orr testified that he drove at a slow speed and took steps to avoid Pacheco-Holm. A jury found him not guilty in early December.

Despite the jury trial hanging over his head, Orr launched a doomed bid for one of three city council seats in Libby last year. Out of six candidates, Orr garnered the least amount of votes in November.

In the weeks since the jury delivered the verdict, Orr has accused Pacheco-Holm of making false allegations and her husband of threatening his life via a text message after the incident in May. He has accused Capt. Boyd White of the sheriff’s office of aiding and abetting false allegations. And he has harshly criticized the county attorney’s office for allegedly refusing to return his property — the camper at the heart of the May dispute — filing the original felony charge as part of an alleged political campaign waged against him and refusing to prosecute Pacheco-Holm’s husband.

Orr also has appeared before Libby City Council, accusing City Hall of stealing his property from the land on City Service Road he claims to hold a lease on from railroad giant BNSF and demanding compensation. City officials removed waste and debris from the site after the state Department of Environmental Quality raised concerns about the dumpsite. Orr claims he was unaware of the cleanup operation though The Western News reached him for comment about the waste at the time.

In repeated conversations with the Lincoln County Board of Commissioners, Orr has described himself as a victim.

“Understand from my position, having been arrested and tried in a case that had absolutely no probable cause, I find it odd that the same group of people in county attorney’s office won’t investigate some real crime,” he said on Jan. 26, referring to the aforementioned text message as a “threat on my life.”

Not for the first time, commissioners indicated that they were unsure what, if any, authority they held over another elected official outside of the county budget. County Commissioner Jerry Bennett (D-2) pledged to look into the question with legal counsel.

“Once we start down that road we can give you a legal, factual answer,” Bennett told Orr.

Orr said he placed the onus of rectifying what he views as problems in the local criminal justice system on commissioners.

“I was tried, arrested — drug out of my house in front of my grandkids — and spent $10,000 I don’t have to protect myself from false accusations,” he said. “When I get to the bottom of it all, there is a captain of the [sheriff’s office] and a prosecutor who overstepped their bounds.”