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Moe changes plea in assault case

by Derrick Perkins Western News
| December 13, 2019 11:21 AM

Kenneth Marvin Moe pleaded guilty to a single felony charge of criminal endangerment following a fight in March that left his then girlfriend in intensive care.

Initially charged with aggravated assault, Moe, 53, of Libby, changed his plea Nov. 25 after reaching an agreement with prosecutors. He is instead making an Alford plea, wherein he maintains his innocence while acknowledging the strength of the evidence against him.

Authorities arrested Moe after his former partner alleged abuse at his hands on March 7. Steve Short of the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office responded to the couple’s Farm to Market Road home about 2:56 a.m. and found the victim struggling to breathe and visibly in pain.

According to Short’s affidavit, the victim said Moe kicked her, possibly hard enough to cause loss of consciousness, while they were lying in bed together. She thought she might have accidentally hit him in the groin while asleep, prompting the assault, court documents said.

She also complained of tenderness in the mouth and theorized Moe had struck here there as well, the affidavit read.

The victim told Short that Moe left after the assault and headed to his parents’ home next door.

Paramedics arrived before Short could finish the interview. The victim was taken to Cabinet Peaks Medical Center shortly thereafter.

Heading next door, Short spoke with Moe’s parents. His father told authorities that Moe had come over about 8 or 8:30 p.m. the night before to watch baseball and then went to bed at their house. At the time, he was complaining that the victim was drinking and smoking marijuana, and he did not want to be around it, Moe’s father told Short in the affidavit.

When Moe came down to speak with authorities, he told them that the victim suffers from a mental health issue and makes up stories about him on a monthly basis, according to court documents. Last year, she took out a restraining order on him and moved away, only to return a month later looking for a place to stay, he said in the affidavit.

Moe denied kicking her or using any physical force on her at all, court documents said. When Short pressed him, Moe acknowledged that the argument had become physical, but said the victim did the pushing and shoving.

“I didn’t kick her or any of that; she is just crazy,” he allegedly told Short.

Moe alleged that the victim had taunted his sexuality while trying to provoke him, court documents said.

In the affidavit, Short wrote that he refrained from arresting Moe because of the difference between his alibi and the 911 call as well as the lack of footprints in the snow between the two homes.

Short recalls telling Moe that “either you are hitting/harming her or you are with someone who is making things up.”

“Trust me, if I hit her, you would know it,” Moe replied, according to the affidavit.

The following day, Short went to Cabinet Peaks Medical Center to speak with the victim, but learned that doctors had moved her to the intensive care unit owing to the severity of her injuries. Doctors told Short that she suffered a punctured lung, ruptured spleen, four to five rib fractures and soft tissue injury. The injuries were not self-inflicted, officials said.

When Short was able to interview the victim, she said the pair were kid free for the evening and planned to watch a movie and drink beer. They ate fish tacos and put on “Bohemian Rhapsody,” which the victim objected to watching, according to the affidavit.

Instead, she said she started cleaning the house. Moe allegedly responded by playing music loudly. At some point, she alleged that he came into the kitchen. They argued and he backhanded her, court documents said.

The victim recalled eventually going to bed. When he joined her, she must have hit him, the victim said in the affidavit. He kicked her, told her she was faking the pain and then left, she said, according to court documents.

She got up, smoked marijuana, for which she has a medical card, and went back to bed, court documents said.

The victim denied getting physical with Moe, telling Short that “I do not hit guys. You hit a guy and you get hit,” according to the affidavit.

Around 2 a.m., she realized how much pain she was in and tried to use the phone, court documents said. She told Short she suspected Moe disconnected it. She called his parents using her mobile phone, but they told her Moe was not there, court documents said.

Finally, she gave up and called her mother and then 911, according to the affidavit.

Arresting Moe, Short recalls questioning his parents a second time. They gave him the same statement, but added that the victim had been walking around with a rib injury the past few weeks.

In a second interview, Moe again denied assaulting the victim, but also added that she had been suffering from an earlier injury. He said he did not know how it occurred. In the affidavit, Short wrote that the victim told him later that she had a kidney issue she planned to get checked out, but doctors had not found anything during her recent hospital stay.

As part of the plea deal with prosecutors, Moe saw his charge lessened from aggravated assault to criminal endangerment. The former carries a maximum penalty of 20 years behind bars and a $50,000 fine. The latter, at most, comes with a 10-year sentence and $50,000 fine.

Prosecutors are recommending a deferred three-year sentence and no fine.