County refiles assault charges on inmate

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Brian Thomas Norvell arraignment, Monday, June 3, 2019. (Paul Sievers/The Western News)

A Lincoln County man was arraigned March 25 in Montana’s 19th Judicial District Court after the Lincoln County attorney’s office refiled charges related to an alleged assault on a county detention officer.

Jeffrey Zwang, deputy Lincoln County Attorney, said the Montana Supreme Court concluded that because Norvell was not brought before a judge without unnecessary delay while being on probation, due to an offense in another state, the district court was in error and should have dismissed the charges.

The Montana Supreme Court reversed the conviction and remanded it to dismiss without prejudice — which allows the state to refile charges, he said. The state has refiled those same charges and now will proceed with the case again.

According to a report from the case’s affidavit, Brian Thomas Norvell, while in jail, punched Lincoln County Detention Officer Travis Miller.

Lincoln County Deputy Brent Faulkner reported that, while he was processing a prisoner into detention, he heard a commotion and then a loud voice. Faulkner ran to see what was happening.

Upon arrival to the cell door, Miller’s mouth was bloody and there were small puddles of blood on the ground, he reported. Miller, while holding a taser in his hand, was standing over Norvell, who was belly down with his hands behind his head.

Miller’s taser was “trained on Norvell’s back,” he reported. The taser was not deployed.

Miller told Faulkner that after he pulled the taser out, Norvell stopped his attack and willingly dropped face-down, prone on the floor with his hands behind his back, according to the report.

Norvell had no visible injuries, he reported. His left knuckle looked redder than his right, due to banging on his cell door prior to the assault, according to the report.

The attack happened while Norvell was processing medications with Norvell. After the incident, officers secured Norvell in a restraint chair, Norvell did not resist, he reported.

Miller’s injury turned out to be far more serious than it looked, Faulkner reported. Upon returning from the hospital, Miller learned there was a laceration of the interior lower lip, where it attaches to the jaw.

Miller’s wife told Faulkner that her husband received three internal stitches and five external stitches, according to the report.

Faulkner reported camera footage from the jail clearly shows Norvell assaulting Miller with a right-handed punch.

Zwang said he refiled charges because of the “serious nature” of the case. Refiling the charges was the appropriate thing to do, he said.

Procedurally, the dismissal puts the county back at, essentially, the beginning of the case, he said. Norvell was arrested and then transported back up to Lincoln County.

The county will proceed with his charges like they would for any other case, Zwang said.

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