Patrick Winderl/Havre Daily Newsemail@example.com
Former Havre probation officer Ed Schmidt pleaded not guilty to a charge of official misconduct during his arraignment this morning in state District Court.
Schmidt, who worked for 13 years as a probation officer for the Montana Department of Corrections, is accused of engaging in sexual acts with a 40-year-old woman assigned to his supervision. Assistant state attorney general Barb Harris filed the charge earlier this month following an investigation by the state Department of Justice. Schmidt resigned from his job in September, less than a week after meeting with a criminal investigator assigned to the case.
According to the charging document, Schmidt maintained his innocence throughout the investigation.
Schmidt spoke several times during the five-minute arraignment, telling District Judge David Rice that he waived his right to a formal reading of the charge and acknowledged understanding his constitutional rights.
Rice released Schmidt on his own recognizance pending a March 12 omnibus hearing. He told Schmidt to turn himself into the Hill County Detention Center today to be booked and released. Rice imposed several conditions of release, including ordering Schmidt to stay in touch with his attorney, not to contact witnesses or the alleged victim, and not to travel outside the state without written approval.
Schmidt is represented by Helena lawyer Francis McCarvel, who did not attend today's hearing. Instead, local attorney Dan Boucher filled in for McCarvel. Harris was also absent, though assistant state attorney general Carlo Canty was linked to the proceeding via teleconference.
After the hearing adjourned, Schmidt ignored a request for an interview. Boucher said Schmidt did not have time to answer questions.
Official misconduct is a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail and a $500 fine. According to state law, a public servant commits official misconduct "if he, when in his official capacity and with the purpose to obtain advantage for himself, performs an act in excess of his lawful authority."
The alleged victim is a 40-year-old woman who was placed on probation last February and assigned to his supervision. According to the charging document, Schmidt required the woman to call him excessively, talked to her about sexual matters, and on three occasions masturbated in her presence while touching her.
According to the charging document, DNA evidence taken from furniture in the woman's home matched a DNA sample taken from Schmidt.
The state Division of Criminal Investigations launched a probe in July after the woman called the Hill County Sheriff's Office. A month later she filed a complaint with the state Human Rights Bureau, claiming she was the victim of sexual discrimination.
That agency will issue a ruling on the complaint next month.
Neither the woman nor her attorney, Great Falls lawyer Patrick Flaherty, were present in court this morning.
Schmidt worked in the Havre office of the state Probation and Parole Bureau for 11 years. At the time of his resignation, his caseload included supervising 87 people, 18 of whom were women.