The Hill County undersheriff said this morning that a search still is underway for a man accused of leaving the state the day after a trial was set for charges accusing him of receiving marijuana to sell in Havre.
Undersheriff Jamieson Ross said California law enforcement officers sought Joe C. Simpson II, a former standout Montana State University-Northern athlete and a Northern admissions specialist at the time he was charged, at his last known address in Pittsburg, Calif., but were unable to locate him.
The Hill County Attorney charged Simpson in November with a felony count of 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.
Dec. 24, Simpson is alleged to have boarded a plane in Great Falls and left the state, the day after state District Judge Dan Boucher set a June 24 date for the trial on the charges.
At the Dec. 23 hearing, Simpson asked for permission to stay with his mother in California while awaiting trial. Boucher told him to file a written request, and warned Simpson that if he failed to attend any required events in court in Havre a warrant would be issued for his arrest and he would be facing new charges.
Boucher issued a warrant for Simpson’s arrest on $50,000 bond Dec. 24 after the Hill County Attorney’s office requested the warrant due to the allegations Simpson had left the state.
Simpson was charged after U.S. Postal Service employees contacted the Tri-Agency Safe Trails Task Force Oct. 22 that a package mailed to Simpson from California, which arrived at the Havre post office in damaged condition, appeared to contain a few pounds of marijuana.