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Judge references taxpayer expense

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A Ronan man who was set to go to trial for an assault with a weapon charge at District Court in Polson on Aug. 17 changed his plea to guilty.

Amiel Jon Gardipe Jr., 22, admitted to using a machete to seriously cut the hand of a woman at a residence on Canyon Mill Road. The motive was the theft of $5.

According to court records, on Feb. 23, law enforcement officers responded to a report that a woman was being treated at St. Luke Community Healthcare hospital in Ronan for a serious cut to her hand. 

At the scene, the injured woman told Lake County Sheriff’s Deputy Brian Hines that she was at a trailer on Canyon Mill Road earlier when Gardipe cut her with a machete. Prosecutor Ben Anciaux, with the Lake County Attorney’s Office, said the cut  “extends between her ring and middle finger, almost to her wrist.” 

Gardipe’s aunt, Carla Gardipe, was at the trailer on Canyon Mill Road where the alleged attack occurred. She said she heard Gardipe state that he was going to get his machete because someone had stolen $5 from him. She told Hines that she thought Gardipe was “joking.” She also said Gardipe had left in his sister’s car.

Hines noted finding a sheath for a machete at the trailer. He also documented blood on the floor and blood-soaked paper towels in a trashcan.

An attempt to locate was issued on the car Gardipe was driving and he was quickly located. Authorities say they found a machete measuring 23-inches long inside the car, and Gardipe was placed under arrest.

Eighty-five jurors had already been summoned to the Polson High School auditorium on Friday, Aug. 14, for pre-trial jury selection purposes at taxpayer expense, something Judge James Manley took notice of when accepting Gardipe’s plea.

Both Judges of the 20th Judicial District (Manley and Deborah “Kim” Christopher) have admonished court members in the past for waiting to resolve cases during the final days before trial, causing extra work hours at taxpayer expense.

“There is a lot of preparation to hold a jury trial, especially during a pandemic. Fortunately, we were able to contact all prospective jurors to let them know the trial has been canceled,” said Clerk of Court Lyn Fricker of the Gardipe case.

Jurors are compensated for the miles they drive in order to attend a jury trial. Manley referred to the many steps that had taken place to prepare for the Aug. 17 trial before telling Gardipe that if he pleads guilty he will be at the mercy of the court. Assault with a weapon carries a maximum of 20 years in the Montana State Prison. Manley set sentencing for Oct. 14. Gardipe remains in the Lake County jail.


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