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APF spokesperson holds emotional press conference; lawyer quits project

Billings Gazette

TOM LUTEY Of The Gazette Staff October 2, 2009 7:40 pm

A sobbing spokeswoman for the secretive company occupying the Hardin jail welcomed an investigation by Montana’s attorney general Friday and expressed concerns for her own safety amid rumors about her company.

Becky Shay, in a 45-minute, wide-ranging press conference during which she occasionally broke into tears, said the California-based American Police Force welcomed an information request made Thursday by Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock.

Meanwhile, an attorney involved in the project cut ties with APF Friday and a second company, once named as a subcontractor, denied any involvement.

Shay said she hadn’t been formally served papers by the attorney general, who said he is concerned that APF might be violating the Montana Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Act. APF has reached a multimillion-dollar agreement with Hardin’s economic development arm, Two Rivers Authority, to run the empty Hardin jail, built two years ago to house inmates under contract. She said she had read of Bullock’s request in the news media.

Shay mentioned the attorney general’s request almost as a two-minute side note in a press conference that revealed that the former Billings Gazette reporter and new face of APF fears for her safety.

“A lot of work I’ve done has been to calm down or at least try to counteract comments from people I consider to be fear mongers,” Shay said. “What has happened in the interim, however, is those people’s friends around the nation have been in contact with me or tried to access me. I realize I’m being pretty vague so that we don’t support or incite these people. I don’t want my words to be taken out of context to further inflame the tensions that I’m working under.”

At that point, Shay began to cry. She asked TV media at the conference to turn their cameras off because, she said, “it’s important to me that I do not appear as vulnerable as I feel.”

APF officials, who rolled into Hardin last week in three black, Mercedes sport utility vehicles bearing faux police insignia and no license plates, have since departed, leaving Shay as the company’s lone point of contact for all comers, including those reading dire motives into APF’s insistent secrecy.

Shay said APF front man Michael Hilton plans to return to Hardin for a two-day job fair beginning Oct. 12.

Specifically, Shay mentioned Internet radio personality Alex Jones, of Austin, Texas. Jones, of infowars.com, was in Hardin on Thursday reporting on APF. Government and corporate takeovers of society are hot topics on Infowars. Jones indicated the Hardin situation was an example of the possibility of government or corporate takeover of a rural area.

Jones said Hardin’s story involved a convicted felon, Hilton, landing in the middle of nowhere and taking over a large jail capable of serving a city of several hundred thousand people. The facility, empty since it was constructed roughly two years ago, has room for more than 464 beds.

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