Tuesday, February 07, 2023

Columbia Falls man accused of fentanyl possession

The Western News | January 20, 2023 7:00 AM

The case involving a Columbia Falls man accused of possessing fentanyl and methamphetamine after a traffic stop in the Eureka area last summer is going to trial.

Alexandr Shestak, 53, was charged with two felony counts of possession of dangerous drugs and one misdemeanor count of possession of drug paraphernalia.

He pleaded not guilty to all charges at his arraignment on Oct. 31. Shestak, who posted $10,000 bond on Sept. 26, appeared on video at the time with his son assisting him because the defendant primarily speaks Russian.

Shestak then had a hearing on Dec. 19 to determine if his case would go to trial. His defense attorney, Thane P. Johnson, said he believed two days would be sufficient for a trial, but also thought there was a chance a deal would be arranged with Lincoln County prosecutors.

The maximum penalty for a conviction on possession of dangerous drugs is five years in the Montana State Prison.

According to the charging document filed by Deputy County Attorney Jeffrey Zwang, Lincoln County Sheriff’s Deputy Michael Avila was on patrol at about 2:25 a.m. on June 3, 2022, when he saw a blue Ford F150 driving slower than usual at the intersection of Dewey Avenue and 8th Street in Eureka. Avila estimated the truck was traveling about 25 miles per hour in a 45 mph zone. The officer then reported seeing the truck cross the center line before returning to the correct lane. Avila then pulled the truck over and spoke to Shestak.

When Avila and Deputy Clint Heintz tried to arrest Shestak, he allegedly said, “No, why?” Avila wrote in his report that Shestak started the truck and put it in “drive.” Avila jumped into the truck and Heintz fired his taser at Shestak, striking him on his right side. Heintz then got the truck into “park” and both deputies got Shestak out of the truck where he allegedly continued to resist efforts to be handcuffed. They eventually were able to place handcuffs on Shestak, according to the charging document.

Heintz then told Avila he could see a meth pipe in plain view on the floorboard. Heintz then took Shestak to the North Lincoln County Law Enforcement Center while Avila took the truck to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection at the Port of Roosville where it was locked in a secure facility.

When Avila returned to law enforcement center, he spoke to Shestak who allegedly said he used the pipe to smoke meth and that there were blue pills, later said to be fentanyl, according to the charging document.

After authorities got a search warrant, they reported finding a number of items, including 74 pills suspected to be fentanyl, a green meth pipe, a clear plastic baggy with a substance believed to be meth, several pieces of burned tin foil with residue and broken pieces of a glass pipe.

Avila wrote in his report that the suspected meth had a weight of 1.7 grams and field tested positive for meth. The suspected fentanyl pills were sent to the Montana State Crime Lab in Missoula.