By Tim Eberly
Claiming to be nearly deaf, an emaciated Chuck Nottingham pleaded not guilty to three felony charges Tuesday in state District Court.
Nottingham, 60, faces a charge stemming from the alleged sexual molestation of a juvenile, plus charges of stalking and bail jumping. If convicted, the Havre resident faces a maximum penalty of 115 years in prison and $110,000 in fines. He has a pretrial hearing scheduled for Dec. 3 at 9 a.m.
During Nottingham's first court appearance since being extradicted from Casper, Wyo., two weeks ago, his attorney, Stephen Gannon, said his client's hearing had deteriorated to near-deafness. As a result, Gannon requested that a hearing test be conducted on Nottingham, which Judge John Warner permitted.
Gannon said Nottingham's hearing problems proved detrimental when the attorney and client attempted phone conversations from the Hill County Detention Center, where Nottingham is being held on $50,000 bond. Warner ordered that batteries be supplied for a phone listening device for Nottingham to aide his conversations with Gannon.
Warner also said a decision regarding the best manner to assist Nottingham with his hearing would be made after the results of the hearing test were obtained.
His inability to hear, coupled with poorly fitting dentures and his inability to chew food, have resulted in Nottingham shedding 90 pounds since he has been incarcerated, Gannon said. Because his hearing is poor, Nottingham has difficutly hearing when sheriff's deputies bring food for him, Gannon said.
Warner ordered that the defendant be taken to a dentist, if Nottingham makes the request, in order to correct his dentures.
In a letter he wrote to the Hill County Clerk of Court on Aug. 29 while he was in the Natrona County Detention Center, Nottingham lobbied for a change of venue for his trial and expanded on his declining physical condition. He said his hearing, which was previously tested at 40 percent by Hi-Line Audiology, had dropped to nearly total deafness.
At that point, he wrote that he had already lost 70 pounds during his incarceration and that his motor skills were progressively impaired.
"My grasp of the events between Jan. 29 and July 10 is not complete," Nottingham wrote. "My hearing loss especially in a jail environment using cheifly phone-to-phone and PA communications has made preparing for my defenses in Havre nearly impossible."
Nottingham also said that his request that his trial be moved out of Hill County stems from mistreatment by Havre police.
"For these reasons, if I am returned to Havre's hostile environment, I cannot receive a fair or impartial trial, threats against my life may be carried out and reasonable bail will be refused or circumvented further by city court or city police harassment," Nottingham wrote.
Nottingham is accused of having sexual contact with an 8-year-old girl in June.
Also, despite restraining orders issued by the Havre City Court for the protection of his wife, police say Nottingham caused her substantial emotional distress or reasonable appprehension of bodily injury or death by repeatedly following and harassing her.
After being arrested on June 12, he was released from jail on June 20. According to police, he fled Hill County and took up residence under an assumed name in Wyoming. He was taken into custody there on July 10.