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Lincoln County man found not guilty of most serious charges in recent trial

by SCOTT SHINDLEDECKER
The Western News | August 23, 2022 7:00 AM

It was a split decision for a Lincoln County man during a trial last week in Libby.

A jury found William Cody Hartman, 66, not guilty of felony burglary and theft and guilty of misdemeanor criminal trespass on Thursday, Aug. 18.

Hartman’s time in the Lincoln County Courthouse was substantially different than his last appearance on June 20 when he cursed District Judge Matt Cuffe and was restrained by officers while leaving the courtroom.

Hartman, who was defended by attorney Scott B. Johnson, was well-behaved during the two-day trial, according to those who took part in the court proceeding.

Hartman is serving a 3-year sentence in the Montana State prison for a criminal endangerment conviction in 2021. He won’t receive any more state time, but he is eligible for time in the county jail. His sentencing is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Monday, Aug. 29.

According to court documents, the trial began on Aug. 17. The jury began deliberating at about 1:10 p.m. on Aug. 18 and delivered a verdict at 3:50 p.m.

Hartman initially received a 3-year suspended sentence on the criminal endangerment charge on Feb. 7. That was for using a cane to break his roommate’s foot. Two other charges, both for felony assault, were dismissed as part of a plea deal in exchange for Hartman’s guilty plea in the cane incident. Those incidents allegedly involved Hartman threatening a casino patron with a knife in July 2021 and allegedly firing a .44 caliber handgun at his roommate in early August 2021.

Hartman received credit for serving 180 days in the county detention center and he was released from custody on Feb. 8.

But, according to state Probation and Parole Officer Darrell Vanderhoef, Hartman quickly found trouble again.

According to court documents that Vanderhoef filed in seeking a revocation of the suspended sentence, Hartman allegedly created a disturbance at a bank in Libby on Feb. 8 and was cited for disorderly conduct.

Vanderhoef also reported that Hartman was “trespassed” from several businesses and that he tried to contact the victim in the cane incident on Feb. 18.

The Probation and Parole Office then sent Hartman to a chemical dependency clinic and a mental health facility for an evaluation. Staff members at both businesses sent him away because of his behavior, according to court documents.

Later in the day on Feb. 18, Libby Police Officer Cody DeWitt responded to a property management office where two employees said Hartman allegedly urinated all over the bathroom floor.

Two employees at the business said Hartman came to the office to retrieve his belongings from a Montana Avenue residence where he had been arrested several months ago. They said Hartman believed his belongings were in the office, but they said the business was not managing the property when Hartman was arrested.

DeWitt wrote in the charging document that Hartman was told how he could get his belongings, which were in a storage facility, after his arrest.

Vanderhoef wrote in court documents that Hartman “poses a threat to public safety, has significant mental health issues and needs mental health treatment in a secure setting.”