A Eureka man who had sued the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office in October in claiming unlawful detainment, was given a suspended six-years sentence with the Montana Department of Corrections in Montana 19th Judicial District Court in Libby on Monday.
Augustin Ramon, for whom the American Civil Liberties Union filed suit against former Lincoln County Sheriff Roby Bowe, was represented by defense attorney Scott B. Johnson standing in for Keenan Gallagher on Monday.
With a suspended sentence, Ramon will be under supervised release, with the possibility of being sent to prison for the full six years if he does not meet the requirements of that supervised release.
Ramon is an immigrant with dual citizenship in Mexico and France according to court documents. In October 2018, the ACLU filed on behalf of Ramon for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction against Bowe to force him to release Ramon on bond.
Under Montana law, according to the court documents filed on behalf of Ramon, in order to detain someone as an illegal immigrant, a new arrest has to be made. The Lincoln County Sheriff does not have the authority to make such an arrest.
That request for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction was denied in November by Montana 19th Judicial District Court Judge Matt Cuffe.
The ACLU then filed an appeal with the Montana Supreme Court with a motion for expedited consideration.
On Dec. 11, the Montana Supreme Court denied the motion for expedited consideration.
There had been no further action or appearances for that appeal filed until the Feb. 12 Montana 19th Judicial District Court ruling.
In January, Ramon changed his plea from not guilty to guilty and a plea agreement was arranged.
Assistant Lincoln County Attorney Jeffrey Zwang said the state recommended Ramon be sentenced to six years with the Montana Department of Corrections, with all six years suspended.
The Lincoln County Attorney’s office opposed a motion by the defense to have some fees waived.
“The state would oppose that at this time,” said Zwang. “An investigation report states that Mr. Ramon is an educated person. It appears he has a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree. It is the state’s position that, at this time, there is no reason to believe that he will be unable to pay.”
Cuffe asked that Ramon stand for sentencing. After reminding him of his right to remain silent, Cuffe sentenced him to six years in the custody of the Montana Department of Corrections with all six years suspended.
“Due to there being no history of criminal behavior and due to Mr. Ramon’s cooperation in this matter, I am going to follow the recommendations of the plea agreement,” said Cuffe. “I think clearly this is an appropriate sentence. I sentence Mr. Ramon to six years in the department of corrections with all six of that suspended.”
Cuffe said he would impose all of the conditions of supervisory release and paragraphs 1 through 26, some of which Johnson argued against.
“I do that sir because I don’t know what’s going to happen with the immigration stuff, my concern is to make sure that you are here,” said Cuffe.
Cuffe went on to remind Ramon that, because he has two degrees, he still has a chance to become a respected member of the community and the six years suspended should give him plenty of time to do that.
Ramon was held on a $25,000 bond at the Lincoln County Jail awaiting trial.
However, a detainer from the U.S. Border Patrol would have had the Sheriff’s Office hold Ramon up to 48 hours if he were bailed out, giving Border Patrol time to come and pick him up. The ACLU suit alleged doing so would constitute a second arrest without cause.
From the beginning, Bowe maintained that that the Sheriff’s Office routinely detains suspects at the request of federal agencies.
Court filings by Bowe’s attorney indicate that since Ramon was been bailed out, he was being detained legally.
The ACLU’s motion for expedited consideration cited Ramon’s Thursday, Jan. 3 court date, and indicated concern that if he were to bond out and be remanded into federal custody, it could negatively impact his pending case.
Court documents indicate that Ramon was held in the Lincoln County Jail since Aug. 3, when Eureka Police Officer Grigori Neils arrested him on suspicion of burglary.
According to Neils’ case report, Ramon was arrested after a neighbor alleged he found Ramon wandering his house when Ramon believed no one was there.
The report states that Ramon admitted during an interview that he stole medications for his wife, Lily McNair. According to Neils’ report, McNair was under investigation for stealing 30 pain pills.
According to an affidavit, McNair paid a bail-bond company to post bail against Ramon’s $25,000 bond. When a bondsman attempted to post it, jail officials “refused to release Mr. Ramon, even after the bondsman sought to post the full bail amount, because Mr. Ramon is subject to an Immigration detainer,” the affidavit states.
Previous Western News reporting was incorporated into this story.