A tribute to Tom Mangan. A mentor, friend and success story



          Last week, I learned of the death of Martin Tom Mangan.  Tom was born in Anaconda, Montana in 1938.  He would go on to serve our country as an F.B.I. agent and the state of Montana through the Montana Criminal Investigation Bureau and several other agencies.  Tom had a huge impact on my life and was a mentor to me when I was a young attorney.  I will miss him terribly.  Below are two short stories about adventures I shared with Tom Mangan.

I will never forget the first time I met Tom Mangan.  I was a public defender in Lewis and Clark County, Montana and it was the first Deliberate Homicide case I had ever worked on.  It took all of ten minutes for me to understand that this guy was something special.  A former agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Tom possessed a subdued sense of confidence.  We would travel from Helena to just outside of Lincoln, Montana (long-time home of the Uni-Bomber) to investigate the scene of a homicide. 

When Tom and I arrived at the house, it was like something out of the movie, Silence of the Lambs.  The Client fancied himself as a house mover.  The scene of the crime was the home where he, his wife, and teenage son lived.  It had clearly been recycled.  There were ½ inch gaps between many of the floor boards and the cold Montana wind blew from one side of the house through the other.  In one of the rooms we entered, we found that our Client had carefully used a knife to cut out dozens of Playboy and Hustler Centerfolds, encircling the wall at about eye level.  That was where we would find the videos.

Tom Mangan was a devout Catholic.  However, I never knew him to push his religion on others and first learned of his faith when we went to his house.  We went to the Mangan family home to watch the videos we had found at our Client’s home wondering if they might relate to the motive behind this shooting.  A small statute of the Virgin Mary and some other religious icons were on top of the Mangan family television.  For the next three painful hours, Tom and I would fast-forward through truly troubling videos, none of which had anything to do with the crime.  The Virgin Mary watched over us the entire time.  For a green public defender, some sights are too troubling to forget!

Tom was an invaluable resource for Native American clients.  For six years in his service to the F.B.I., Tom investigated crimes on Native American reservations in New Mexico.  Somehow, Tom Mangan knew how to communicate with Native people when other Non-Natives were unable to get accurate information.  It was Tom’s ability to gain trust with folks who had no reason to trust a white guy that saved one of my clients from ten years in Federal prison for Attempted Murder.

          In my broom-closet sized office just off of Dickerson Street in Bozeman, I received a very, very big file.  The file contained charging documents, photographs, and many F.B.I. “302 forms.”  I would quickly learn that a 302 form is used by FBI agents to report or summarize the interviews they conduct.  No fewer than 17 people had been interviewed and the information contained in the 302 reports was consistent, my client tried to kill one of Racine brothers at the baseball fields just outside of Browning.  No doubt about it!  I would copy the reports and send them to Tom.

          About three days later I got a call.  “These reports are too damn perfect,” were the first words out of Tom’s mouth.  “There is no way you can get 17 stories that are this consistent.”  “What should we do?”  I asked.  “We have to go to Browning to figure this out” was Tom’s response.  By the end of the week, we would be in Browning, talking to the folks who were previously interviewed by the F.B.I. agent on the case.

          After this phone call but before we would leave for Browning, Tom made a call or two to get some background on the agent who conducted this investigation.  It turns out that it is pretty hard to fire an F.B.I. agent.  However, reassignment to a place as cold and windy as Cut Bank, Montana may lead to “voluntary” withdrawal from the bureau.  It would turn out that these 302 forms were too damn perfect after all.

          For the next three days, I watched Tom Mangan interview no fewer than 17 people who had been interviewed by the new F.B.I. agent.  All 17 of them told us very different versions of what was contained in the report.  Some of these witnesses were so scared to be seen talking to two white guys that we took them out of town for the interviews.  Apparently, interviewing someone who does not want to be seen with you can lead to obtaining inaccurate information.  The F.B.I. agent assigned to this case had a lot to learn.  The Attempted Murder charge against my client would be dismissed and, thanks to Tom Mangan, an absolute travesty of justice was avoided.

          May God bless you Tom Mangan.  The world is a better place because you were here!