A former university employee accused of planning to sell marijuana in Havre admitted this morning to flying to California without permission, with the judge responding that he could be released if he wears a global positioning system device.
Joe Clifton Simpson II, born in 1990, admitted in state District Court this morning to boarding an airplane in Great Falls Dec. 24 without permission from the county attorney. That was the day after state District Judge Dan Boucher warned him that if he was allowed to reside with his mother in California he would be subject to the rules of the court including a warrant being issued for his arrest and possibly facing new charges if he failed to appear in any required court appearances.
Boucher issued a $50,000 warrant Dec. 24.
Simpson turned himself in at the Hill County jail Jan. 23.
The Hill County attorney filed charges against Simpson after law enforcement officers said a package mailed to him from California was found to contain 995 grams - 2 pounds, three ounces - of a substance that field-tested positive for marijuana, a charging document says.
Hill County Attorney Gina Dahl said during this morning's hearing that Simpson should remain in custody.
"The state, obviously, is concerned with any flight risk," she said.
"We disagree," Simpson's attorney, Lindsay Lorang, responded.
Lorang said that, because Simpson turned himself in and has spent 11 days in jail, that should be sufficient punishment for returning to California to spend the holidays with his family. She said Simpson would agree to checking in regularly with law enforcement as a requirement of his release if desired.
Boucher said the court shared the prosecution's concern about a risk of flight. He said he didn't doubt that Simpson left the state to spend the holidays with his family, "but that's not how it works."
Boucher ordered Simpson released on the $50,000 posted if he obtains and wears a GPS monitor to track his location. He said if the cost of obtaining such a device is a problem, Simpson could bring that up with the court.
Simpson was charged with felony counts of attempted criminal possession of marijuana with intent to distribute and possessing property subject to forfeiture and misdemeanor counts of criminal possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia.
According to a charging document, U.S. Postal Service employee notified the Tri-Agency Safe Trails Task Force Oct. 22 that a package mailed from Pittsburg, Calif., to Simpson at his Havre residence appeared to contain marijuana.
The postal service employee said the package had been damaged in shipping and contained a green substance in plastic bags that appeared to be, and smelled like, marijuana.
Postal Service records showed five packages similar to the package reported Oct. 22, weighing 2 pounds or more, were shipped to Simpson from California between Sept. 21 and Oct. 17, the document says.
According to the charging document, law enforcement officers serving a search warrant on the residence Oct. 23 reported finding a 9 mm Taurus handgun in Simpson's room at his residence in Havre, which he shared with two roommates.
Requests have been filed in civil court that Daniel Agostino and Daniel Mack forfeit property found in the search.
The officers also found small amounts of marijuana and drug paraphernalia including glass pipes commonly used to smoke marijuana, the document says.
The officers also found more than $13,000 in the residence in bundles ranging from $300 to more than $8,000, the document says.