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Governor Comes Clean on Laundry

January 05, 2002|From Associated Press

HELENA, Mont. — Gov. Judy Martz said Friday that she washed the clothes her top aide was wearing hours after he was involved in a drunken-driving crash that killed the Montana House majority leader.

Martz said it was a motherly reaction to the bloody and dirty items and not an attempt to destroy evidence. She had brought the aide to her residence after he was released from the hospital.

She said she did not realize she had done something wrong until authorities came to collect the clothing of Shane Hedges two days after the Aug. 15 accident. The crash killed Paul Sliter, 32, who was a passenger in the vehicle and Hedges' best friend.

"I was never told not to do anything with them," Martz said of the shirt and pants. "A mother does that kind of stuff. If something's dirty or got blood on it, you try to get it off and you clean it up."

Martz added: "If I had it to do over again, I wouldn't have. But the mother in me did it."

Tests showed Hedges was legally drunk at the time of the accident, and he resigned as Martz's policy director. He pleaded guilty to negligent homicide and is serving at least a six-month sentence at a halfway house.

After the crash, Martz went to the hospital where Hedges was taken to be examined. When he was released about five hours later, she took him to the governor's residence, where he stayed for a few days.

Lewis and Clark County Atty. Leo Gallagher said no charges were filed over the clothes washing because a Highway Patrol investigator initially turned down an offer to take the items as evidence. Two days passed before the patrol requested the clothes.

"I can understand that someone given that set of facts would believe they have no evidentiary value," he said. "Therefore, dealing with those clothes as you would with any other set of dirty clothes does not seem to me to be a criminal offense."

Fourteen news organizations have sued to obtain access to investigative records of the crash.

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