U.S. Attorney Kurt Alme announces resignation
BILLINGS — United States Attorney Kurt Alme today announced his resignation as the U. S. Attorney for the District of Montana effective Dec. 2, 2020.
A Montana native graduating high school in Miles City, Alme was recommended by Senator Daines, nominated by President Trump, and unanimously confirmed for the office by the Senate in September 2017. Prior to his confirmation, Alme was President and General Counsel of the Yellowstone Boys and Girls Ranch Foundation, which supports the Ranch as it serves over 600 emotionally troubled youth, including those with substance abuse disorders.
“I want to express my gratitude to Senator Daines for recommending me and to President Trump for nominating me for this position,” Alme said. “It has been the honor of a lifetime to serve with the outstanding attorneys and professional staff in this office.”
During his tenure at the U. S. Attorney’s Office (USAO), Alme focused on reducing meth-related violent crime, opioid overdose deaths and crime on our Native American reservations. Under his direction, Assistant U. S. Attorneys (AUSAs) and professional staff in the office increased federal criminal prosecutions by 15% to over 400 defendants per year, except during a short disruption from COVID earlier this year. Those prosecutions include drug trafficking, violent crime on Native American reservations, child pornography, human trafficking, financial and government fraud, immigration, and firearms violations. Alme oversaw over 70 employees in four offices, Billings, Great Falls, Helena and Missoula. The USAO also represented the United States in civil cases in the Montana.
Under Alme’s leadership, the USAO launched Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) in 2018 in partnership with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies to combat increasing meth-related violent crime. PSN placed priority on federal prosecutions of meth traffickers, armed robbers and violent felons with firearms. Since PSN began, more than 670 cases have been prosecuted statewide, and 293 cases alone in Yellowstone County where 333 pounds of meth and 343 firearms, including 78 semi-automatic rifles have been seized. After PSN began in Missoula County, murder, robbery and aggravated assaults decreased 25% until increasing again after COVID began.
"Methamphetamine trafficking and abuse has negatively affected the lives of so many in our community,” said Missoula County Sheriff TJ McDermott. “Under the leadership of U.S. Attorney Alme, PSN was successfully launched in Missoula County in 2018, where law enforcement partners focused their efforts on prosecuting violent and dangerous offenders and providing addiction and substance abuse treatment options for end users. This collaboration significantly decreased violent crime in Missoula County for the first two years of the initiative leading up to the coronavirus pandemic. I am very thankful for Kurt’s efforts in bringing all of us together to help reduce violent crime in Missoula County,” McDermott said.
Alme also led PSN efforts to reduce demand for meth through improved treatment and prevention, joining with many nonprofit and governmental organizations to form coalitions in both Yellowstone and Missoula counties. Yellowstone Substance Abuse Connect developed a community plan to improve meth treatment and prevention in the county and is now implementing that plan. Missoula Substance Abuse Connect recently received a $248,000 grant from the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (RMHIDTA) to develop a meth treatment and prevention plan for that community.
“Kurt’s vision and leadership was the cornerstone in creating Yellowstone County's Substance Use Connect Coalition,” said Lenette Kosovich, CEO of Rimrock in Billings. “He saw first hand how the issues of meth related crime were negatively affecting our community and knew it would take all of us to create the solutions. Kurt's dedication and continual guidance to the work of the SAC catapulted all of us to work even harder to do better.”
To address both meth-related violent crime and opioid overdoses, Alme, together with Montana Attorney General Tim Fox and the Montana County Attorney’s Association, started the Montana Prosecuting Attorneys’ Drug Enforcement Coordinating Committee to coordinate drug enforcement activities by all law enforcement in Montana, and share information on drug trends and training.
Alme also served as Vice-Chair of the Executive Board of the RMHIDTA, which coordinates law enforcement agencies to address drug threats in a four-state region. In addition, Alme worked on national drug enforcement issues as a member of the Controlled Substances Subcommittee of the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee (AGAC).
“I have worked with Kurt on a broad range of public safety issues, from missing persons in Indian Country to our drug epidemic and have found him to be highly collaborative and engaged at every level,” said Bryan Lockerby, Administrator of the Division of Criminal Investigation at the Montana Department of Justice, and Chairman of the RMHIDTA. “Kurt has served thoughtfully as Vice-Chairman of RMHIDTA, stood up the Montana Prosecuting Attorney’s Drug Enforcement Coordinating Committee, and led the Project Safe Neighborhoods Initiatives. In my 40-year career, I’ve never worked with someone so committed to making our state safer and better,” Lockerby said.
To reduce opioid overdoses from pill diversion by health care workers, pharmacies and others with access to opioids, Alme started a statewide healthcare fraud task force composed of federal and state law enforcement. Alme also championed the DEA’s Take Back Days to help get unused pills out of bathroom cabinets and destroyed.
Alme served as Vice-Chair of the Native American Issues Subcommittee, the oldest and largest subcommittee of the AGAC. He prioritized communication and public safety issues with Montana’s tribal governments. During Alme’s tenure, prosecutions of crimes from the six reservations where the federal government has primary felony jurisdiction increased. Before COVID hit Montana, Alme made more than 20 trips to Montana’s reservations to meet with tribal leaders about public safety, drug trafficking and abuse, missing and murdered indigenous persons (MMIP), and victim services. A dedicated AUSA meets monthly with multidisciplinary teams on the six reservations to ensure child abuse, rape and domestic violence cases are prosecuted and victims receive help.
Alme worked to ensure that federal drug enforcement funding, law enforcement resources, and criminal drug prosecutions on Montana’s reservations all increased.
Through Alme’s leadership, Montana has been at the national forefront of addressing the issue of MMIP. Alme hired an experienced former FBI agent as the country’s first MMIP Coordinator, who, among other duties, has ensured that the lead law enforcement agency in missing Native American investigations is aware of all available federal resources, including FBI Rapid Deployment Teams. Alme chaired the U. S. Department of Justice MMIP Working Group, which created draft guides to develop Tribal Community Response Plans to improve responses in missing person cases. One of the first tribal partnerships to develop a Plan will be piloted on the Flathead Indian Reservation in Montana in December.
Under Alme’s leadership, the USAO partnered with the Montana Department of Justice, FBI and Bureau of Indian Affairs to provide two statewide trainings for law enforcement on use of missing person databases and alerts, such as Amber Alerts, and for the public on what to do when a loved one goes missing. The USAO also partnered with tribal governments to provide training to community members on all seven of Montana’s reservations from the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs) on what to do when a loved one goes missing. The USAO is a member of the Montana Missing Indigenous Persons Task Force which, among other steps, has worked with its tribal representatives to ensure all missing tribal members are being looked for by including them in the state Missing Persons Clearinghouse.
With Alme’s leadership, the USAO recently expanded its victim services plan to allow for earlier engagement with vulnerable child and female victims, and to work with tribal governments to expand victim services on the reservations. The U. S. Department of Justice recently awarded an additional victim services position to the USAO to implement the plan.
“I appreciate Kurt’s commitment to addressing the tragedy of missing and murdered Indigenous persons. Kurt’s collaboration and communication with Tribes, and his dedication to building strong partnerships, have served as exactly the type of leadership that was needed to combat MMIP,” said Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes’ Chairwoman Shelly Fyant.
Alme is a graduate of the University of Colorado and Harvard Law School. After graduation, he clerked for Montana U. S. District Judge Charles Lovell, was formerly a partner in the regional law firm now known as Crowley Fleck, served as Director of the Montana Department of Revenue under Governor Martz, and served as an AUSA and eventually First Assistant in the USAO.