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Lake County District Court news for Feb. 8, 2017

Judge James A. Manley sentenced the following people on Wednesday, Feb. 1:

Sonny Morigeau, 39, had a three-year deferred sentence revoked and was given a three-year sentence to the Department of Corrections after he violated his probation by possessing methamphetamine, alcohol and marijuana on Dec. 20. Manley recommended Morigeau be screened for drug treatment. His original sentence was for criminal possession of dangerous drugs in November 2013.

Chase Aaron Merchant, 24, was given a 10-year sentence to the Department of Corrections with 10 years suspended for arson. According to a court document, Merchant set fire to the front door of a Moiese residence on Jan. 10, 2016. He was given credit for 162 days in jail. Defense attorney Robert Long said drinking alcohol had a lot to do with Merchant committing the offense. Manley admonished Merchant and told him not to drink. “There isn’t a good sentence that solves the problem,” Manley said.

Nicholas Joseph Stasso, 30, of St. Ignatius, was given a 10-year sentence to the Department of Corrections with 10 years suspended for criminal possession of dangerous drugs with intent to distribute methamphetamine. The offense was committed March 11, 2016. He was given credit for 31 days including 26 days in a drug treatment program. His defense attorney Lael Gabrian said Stasso “is an addict and has taken a lot of steps to address the addiction.” Another charge was dismissed as part of a plea agreement.

Myron Eugene Walker, 40, of Kalispell, was given a six-month deferred sentence in the Lake County jail with all of it suspended for unauthorized use of a vehicle, a misdemeanor, that was amended from felony theft. Walker said he kept a vehicle (2005 Chevy Blazer) longer than he was supposed to after he was loaned the vehicle last August.

Franklin Shane Kuntz, 26, of Ronan, had a criminal possession of dangerous drugs with intent to distribute charge against him dismissed.

Judge Deborah Kim Christopher sentenced the following individual Thursday, Feb. 2:

Shane Russell Vanness, 43, of Polson, was sentenced to the Department of Corrections for three years, all suspended, for a misdemeanor criminal endangerment charge, amended from DUI, which would have been his first felony offense.

According to court documents, Vanness has five prior misdemeanor DUI convictions dating back to 2008, with two in Utah and three in Montana. A fourth or subsequent DUI charge in Montana is a felony charge.

Judge Christopher gave the sentence recommended in the plea agreement, with “significant reservations,” because Vanness wouldn’t be serving any jail time on this offense.

Defense attorney Glen M. Neier explained that Vanness, on his own accord, became involved with AA, obtained a chemical dependency evaluation, has stayed steadily employed and is doing very well.

“In terms of his chances of success, he’s one of the highest I’ve had as far as staying clean and sober,” Neier said.

Prosecuting attorney Benjamin Anciaux agreed that Vanness has shown a willingness to recognize there is a problem and deal with it. Probation is in favor of the plea agreement, he added, because Vanness will have this on his record forever, unlike a deferred sentence that could be cleared.

“This allows him to hang himself, if that’s what he chooses to do,” Anciaux said.

“I hope you don’t,” Judge Christopher said to Vanness, “but if you do, don’t take anyone else with you. I hope for your sake you take advantage of some kind of treatment program.”

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