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Zeiler spared prison time for good behavior

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POLSON — A St. Ignatius man’s pre-trial turnaround of behavior may have spared him prison time. Charles Henry “Pete” Zeiler, 45, was sentenced at District Court in Polson March 16 to the Lake County jail for six months, each of two counts of misdemeanor solicitation of violation of an order of protection. He was committed to the Montana Department of Corrections for two years all suspended for felony solicitation of violation of an order of protection, and committed to the DOC for five years all suspended on one count of felony criminal endangerment.

Zeiler was initially facing one count of partner or family member assault, two misdemeanor counts of solicitation of violation of an order of protection, seven felony counts of solicitation of violation of an order of protection, three counts of felony violation of an order of protection, misdemeanor violation of a no contact order, and felony criminal endangerment.

According to court records, on May 12, 2021, a woman reported that Zeiler intentionally swerved his vehicle at hers while extending his middle finger at her. The woman reported to the Lake County Sheriff’s office that Zeiler may be going to the residence of the subject of the protective order. She was identified by her initials J.B. A Lake County deputy responded to the scene and spoke with J.B. She said she had been in a relationship with Zeiler for the last year and a half and described multiple incidents of abuse including a recent black eye. Zeiler allegedly called J.B.’s phone repeatedly while the deputy was there.

Records show Zeiler has two prior convictions for partner or family member assault. The solicitation charges are the result of Zeiler getting his father to call J.B. and relay messages.

Prosecutor Molly Owen with the Lake County Attorney’s office had sought a prison term totaling 12 years. Judge Manley cited positive steps taken by Zeiler prior to announcing the suspended sentence, and ran it consecutively to a five year suspended commitment to the DOC from a PFMA conviction in 2018. Zeiler was given credit for having already served 33 days in jail. He was also ordered to enter and successfully complete the Lake County Drug Court.

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