A former Montana State University-Northern student, star athlete and recruiter has agreed to change his plea to charges that he accepted marijuana with the intent to sell it while working for Northern in Havre.
Joe C. Simpson II, who was allowed to move back to his home state of California to live with relatives while charges were pending, has agreed that the prosecution has enough evidence to convict him and is scheduled to plead no contest Monday, June 30, to all charges. He is scheduled to appear at the hearing via Skype.
The recommendations in the plea agreement are to sentence Simpson, who was born in 1990, to probation on all charges with the chance to clear his record, pay fees and fines and possibly restitution, and forfeit to the local drug task force $11,508.32 and a 9 mm Taurus handgun found in his residence.
It recommends the judge impose three-year deferred imposition of sentences each on felony charges of attempted possession of marijuana with intent to distribute it and possession of property subject to forfeiture, and six-month deferred imposition of sentences each on misdemeanor counts of possession of dangerous drugs and possession of drug paraphernalia.
Under a deferred imposition of sentence, if Simpson abides by all requirements during probation he could then request that the felony charge be struck from his record.
In a no contest plea, the defendant does not admit to wrongdoing but admits the prosecution has enough evidence for a conviction at a trial.
Simpson, who graduated from Northern in 2012, played for the Lights basketball team while at the university, including at the national tournaments in 2011 and 2012. He was named the Frontier Conference defensive player of the year and the NAIA awarded him its Champion of Character honor in 2012.
The investigation that led to Simpson's arrest started with a package mailed to Simpson from Pittsburg, Calif.
Oct. 22, a U.S. Postal Service supervisor contacted a Tri-Agency Task Force agent to report a Postal Service clerk had intercepted a package believed to contain marijuana mailed to Simpson, a charging document says.
The supervisor said the package had been damaged during shipping, and smelled of marijuana.
That same day, a Havre police officer reported to the task force agent that an informant told him that Simpson distributed marijuana to some Northern athletes.
The supervisor said Simpson or his roommates had accepted five other packages of similar size and shape mailed to him from California between Sept. 21 and Oct. 17.
After Simpson's roommates, Daniel Agostino and Daniel Mack - both of whom had signed for packages in the month previous - declined to accept the package on two delivery attempts, the task force agent obtained a search warrant.
Simpson and Mack were present when the agent served the warrant, the document says, and the search found the Taurus handgun, small quantities of marijuana and drug paraphernalia, and more than $13,000 in cash secreted throughout the apartment in bundles ranging from bundles ranging from $300 to more than $8,000, the document says.
Mack and Agostino have not been charged with felony criminal offenses in district court in Havre, but the task force filed civil charges against them and Simpson requesting they forfeit $10,800 and the Taurus handgun.
Judge Dan Boucher issued a default judgment against Agostino in April as he had not responded to the civil charges. Hill County Attorney Gina Dahl filed a motion Tuesday asking the judge to rule against Mack for the same reason.
The motion requesting Simpson be allowed to return to California pending trial was granted less than three weeks Simpson turned himself in at the Hill County jail on an arrest warrant for going to California without permission.
Simpson requested during a hearing Dec. 23 that he be allowed to return to California to await court proceedings. State District Judge Dan Boucher warned him that, if he were allowed to go to California, he would have to abide by all rules of the court.
The next day, Dec. 24, he boarded an airplane in Great Falls and flew back to California to spend the holidays with his family without receiving permission.
Boucher issued an arrest warrant for Simpson that same. He turned himself in at the Hill County jail Jan. 23.