By Patrick Winderl/Havre Daily Newsfirstname.lastname@example.org
A Havre man accused of stealing from an elderly woman who hired him to help out around her house has pleaded guilty to three felony charges.
Shane Clark Johnson, 36, pleaded guilty in state District Court to one count each of burglary, theft and forgery. As part of a plea agreement, prosecutors Friday dropped a charge of sexual intercourse without consent.
Johnson faces up to 50 years in prison. He will be sentenced Oct. 21.
According to the charging document, police were alerted by a local bank that Johnson had attempted to cash a $200 check from the victim's account on March 3. The check appeared to be forged, and bank tellers refused to cash it, the document said. Johnson fled the scene, leaving his identification card behind.
Officers investigated the incident and found that Johnson had cashed a $350 check from the woman's account on Feb. 28, the document said. They also found he had used another check Feb. 25 to purchase furniture and a paintball gun, the document said.
Police determined that the numbers on the checks matched those of nine checks that the woman had reported stolen shortly before Johnson cashed them, the charging document said.
On March 4, officers interviewed the woman, who said she had employed Johnson to perform odd jobs around her house. The woman told police Johnson must have taken the checks, and that she also believed he had stolen her coin collection, the document said.
The woman also told police she was concerned because Johnson planned to buy a handgun, and she was afraid he was going to kill her, according to court records.
Police interviewed a local coin collector who said Johnson had sold him a large number of silver dollars on July 1 for $590, according to the charging document. The coins were never recovered, Havre police said.
The woman allowed Johnson into her home for the last time on Feb. 16. She told police during the March 4 interview that Johnson forced her to have sex. She called police and asked them to remove Johnson from her home, but did not report the alleged assault at that time.
Johnson was charged with sexual intercourse without consent, but County Attorney Cyndee Peterson dropped the charge in exchange for a guilty plea to the other charges.
Peterson said today she decided to drop the charge after talking with the woman and reviewing the evidence.
"It was a judgment call," she said. "It comes down to what we can prove."
Peterson said she will recommend that District Judge John McKeon sentence Johnson to 10 years in prison on each of the three charges with five years suspended. She will ask that the sentences run concurrently.
The burglary charge stemmed from a March 2 incident in which Johnson entered the woman's home without her permission. According to the charging document, Johnson entered the house through a broken window in the garage, the document said. The woman found Johnson hiding in her house and asked him to leave, the document said.