A former Cascade County, Mont., justice of the peace, who resigned last year after gay porn was found on his work computer, hanged himself Monday morning. Michael Smartt, 52, was found in the basement of the Rainbow Retirement home, where he often played the piano and where his Shriner's club met. He was alone when he hanged himself sometime between 1 a.m. and 2 a.m., Chief Deputy Coroner Lt. Jim Bruckner said. A worker found his body shortly after 5 a.m. Toxicology tests are being conducted, Bruckner said.
Close friend and fellow attorney Channing Hartelius, who also represented Smartt in his defense against misconduct charges, said Smartt missed being a judge. "That whole judgeship thing really got to him--being a judge was the love of his life," Hartelius told the Great Falls Tribune Monday evening.
In October 2000, fellow justice of the peace Sam Harris and a staff member discovered gay pornography on Smartt's computer. Smartt said he was looking for images for a joke birthday card for his wife. Although county officials found he had broken no rules, the state Judicial Standards Commission, which also heard testimony on charges that Smartt broke into a Sidney man's house and molested him, recommended Smartt be removed from office.
In the midst of the controversy, Smartt chose to run for a different justice of the peace seat. He was defeated in the June primary. In October 2002, Smartt was suspended without pay until the end of his term that December. He resigned the following week. Smartt had returned to family law, and his business was beginning to build, and he was an active Shriner and Mason, said Hartelius and longtime friend and fellow Shriner Jerry Evans.
Two of Smartt's four brothers also killed themselves. In August 1980, George "Matt" Smartt Jr. died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, and in August 2002, Edward L. "Ned" Smartt, 50, shot himself at Haggarty Motors, the family business.