A recruiter for Montana State University-Northern — a former standout Lights basketball player — now faces a felony and multiple misdemeanor counts in state District Court in Havre stemming from an investigation of a damaged package mailed from California to Havre.
The Hill County Attorney has charged Northern admissions specialist Joe C. Simpson, born in 1990, with attempted criminal possession of drugs with the intent to distribute and with misdemeanor counts of possession of drugs, possession of drug paraphernalia and use or possession of property subject to forfeiture — a 9 mm Taurus handgun and about $13,000 in cash.
Simpson’s arraignment, in which defendants typically enter a plea and a followup hearing, is scheduled for Nov. 25.
Northern public relations director Jim Potter said Thursday that Simpson was still on paid administrative leave pending resolution of the charges. He said no information from an internal investigation the university was conducting about the charges was available Thursday.
According to a court document, the investigation leading to the arrest and charging of Simpson started when a representative of the Havre post office contacted a federal law enforcement official Oct. 22 and said U.S. Postal Service employees had intercepted a package addressed to Simpson containing about three pounds of suspected marijuana.
The postal supervisor told the agent that on Saturday, Oct. 19, a clerk at the post office reported the package had arrived in damaged condition and smelled of marijuana, and that the supervisor could recognize the odor because “these things have happened in the past.”
The supervisor also said that someone had come to the post office inquiring about the package. Joe Simpson was later identified using a surveillance video as that person.
The supervisor said several similar packages had been mailed to Simpson in previous weeks, the court document said.
Postal records showed five packages including the one that was intercepted were mailed from California to Simpson between Sept. 21 and Oct. 17.
Oct. 22, a Havre Police officer informed the federal agent that an anonymous tipster said Simpson was distributing marijuana to members of the Montana State University-Northern football team.
The document said a postal inspector tried to deliver the package — which required the recipient to sign a confirmation slip — to Simpson twice on on Oct. 22, and each time, roommates of Simpson declined to accept the package.
The federal agent obtained a search warrant, and served the warrant at 4:25 p.m. Oct. 23. Simpson and one of his roommates were the sole occupants of the resident at that time, the document said.
The document said the agent smelled marijuana immediately upon entering the residence, and that small amounts of marijuana and drug paraphernalia were scattered throughout the residence.
The 9 mm Taurus handgun was found in Simpson’s room, and cash ranging from bundles of $300 to $2,300 were found throughout the residence, including hidden above a closet doorjamb, in a dresser drawer and in an attic space.
After Simpson refused to allow a search of the package, the postal inspector and federal agent obtained a search warrant on the package, which contained about 2 pounds 3 ounces of substance which field-tested positive for marijuana, the document said.
Simpson, a native of Pittsburg, Calif., which the court document said is from where some of the packages were mailed, graduated from Northern in 2012.
He was the recipient of the NAIA Champion of Character award in 2012, which was given to student athletes who excel in five traits: integrity, respect, responsibility, sportsmanship and servant leadership. He was also the Frontier Conference Defensive Player of the Year.