Man sentenced on attempt to bring drugs into jail

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Eric Allen Forner (Paul Sievers/The Western News)

Following an attempt in May to smuggle drugs into the Lincoln County Detention Center, a local man was sentenced to 13 months with the Montana Department of corrections with 10 years suspended and credit for time served in Montana 19th Judicial District Court on June 24.

The sentencing of Allen Eric Forner was for two separate cases, with charges including driving under the influence and conspiracy to transfer illegal articles.

Forner was originally also charged with failure to exhibit proof of insurance, a misdemeanor, and driving while suspended or revoked, a misdemeanor.

On June 24, Judge Matt Cuffe sentenced Forner to 13 months with five years suspended for driving under the influence, and to 5 years suspended for transfer of illegal articles related to the courtroom incident.

He reached a plea agreement with the Lincoln County Attorney’s office, and on May 20 pleaded guilty to felonious conspiracy to transfer illegal articles and felonious driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

On April 16, Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Luke Hauke responded as backup to a traffic stop on Libby, according to Hauke’s affidavit.

After showing up to the traffic stop, Hauke reported being able to smell “the strong odor of an alcoholic beverage” from six feet away from Forner.

Hauke also reported that Forner had difficulty walking, and his eyes were glossy and bloodshot.

Hauke went through a Standardized Field Sobriety Test on Forner, and reported difficulty for Forner in following the commands successfully. Forner continued to sway throughout the test.

Forner declined a preliminary breath test at the scene of the traffic stop, according to the affidavit. Forner acknowledged that, “he had several beers and some hard alcohol.”

Hauke placed Forner under arrest for driving under the influence at that time.

At the Lincoln County Detention Center, Forner submitted to a breathalyzer test, and a blood alcohol level of 0.226 percent was recorded. The legal limit in Montana is 0.08 percent.

Hauke noted that while he was reading Forner the Miranda warning, Forner was shouting at law enforcement, and “he also threatened to fight law enforcement during the time he was being changed out for detention.”

On May 6, Forner pleaded not guilty at his arraignment to all charges related to the April 11 incident.

However, on May 6, Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office Detective Duane Rhodes intercepted information indicating Forner was going to receive drugs for another detention center inmate.

According to Rhodes’ affidavit, Shane Mundale, an inmate in the detention center, spoke by phone with his wife on May 6 about taping pills to the underside of the defendants bench in the courtroom. Forner was to retrieve the pills while in court for his arraignment that day.

Rhodes found a package as described adhered to the defendants bench shortly after Mundale’s wife had been in the courtroom.

Rhodes left the package in place and proceeded to observe the courtroom on the court’s surveillance system. When Forner was brought into the courtroom he, “entered the defendants bench and immediately start to lean forward and put his hands to the underside of the bench.”

Rhodes stated that he observed Forner apparently retrieve the package and place it under the front of his shirt.

Rhodes went to the courtroom, and -- after Forner was finished with his appearance before Cuffe -- led Forner to the elevator, stating that he was returning him to detention.

On the elevator, Rhodes observed Forner -- who had his back to Rhodes -- appearing to reach under his shirt. When Rhodes turned him around, Forner was holding the package.

On later opening the package, Rhodes reported finding what he estimated to be three cans-worth of Copenhagen, a syringe, a cigarette, several matches and two white pills identified as morphine.

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