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Judge Jayne sets trial for local editor

POLSON — On Monday, Judge Joey Jayne set a jury trial date of Feb. 20, 2015, for Vince Lovato, 53, editor of the Lake County Leader, when he appeared in her court for an omnibus hearing. 

Lovato pleaded not guilty to obstructing a peace office or other public servant, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct, all misdemeanors. The charges stem from Lovato’s arrest at an Oct. 1 two-vehicle wreck on Montana State Highway 35.

Attorney Mike Meloy, representing Lovato, said he filed a motion to dismiss the case and a motion to compel on Nov. 10. At Judge Jayne’s query as to what wasn’t being disclosed, Meloy said the State of Montana is resisting a request to disclose the arresting officer’s personnel file. 

Asked outside the court if it’s customary to request personnel files, Meloy said it’s necessary because the case has “an overlay of first and fourth amendments.”

The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees freedom of the press, among other things, and the Fourth Amendment deals with probable cause for arrest.

Outside the courtroom, Lapotka said the state’s policy is not to release personnel files.

Both motions have been briefed, Meloy said. Lake County Attorney James Lapotka filed the state’s response to a motion to dismiss on Nov. 21. According to Lapotka, Lovato’s refusal to leave the crime scene hindered the trooper’s ability to: collect evidence in a criminal matter, assist rescue personnel, clear the highway, protect the environment from a potentially catastrophic spill of toxic chemicals into a delicate watershed, and protect the public from a potential explosion.

Judge Jayne said she will answer the motions soon.

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