New JP shaking up lower courts
Newly elected Justice of the Peace Lee Cornell has been on the bench for less than two weeks and he is already making waves.
Last week as he was going through a small mountain of files on his desk, Cornell said he made a discovery.
“There are some people that need to go to jail,” said Cornell.
Specifically, people who have repeatedly violated their probation. Cornell then acted on that conclusion almost immediately, sending a man who had violated his probation a total of five times to jail for 258 days.
Also sent to jail last week was a woman with repeated probation violations. Her sentence was 10 days.
(See page 3 for details on both cases).
It isn’t just that Cornell imposed jail sentences on repeat offenders that is news, but that he sent them to do their time at the old Big Horn County jail.
Cornell reached an agreement with the Big Horn Sheriff’s Office to house Stillwater County prisoners for a cost of $50 per day. The Yellowstone County Detention Facility (YCDF) charges $100 per day and is routinely running at maximin capacity, meaning misdemeanor offenders are usually not accepted.
A Big Horn County Sheriff’s captain who lives in Billings has agreed to meet Stillwater County deputies in Billings for inmate transport.
Stillwater County Attorney Nancy Rohde said she is pleased with Cornell’s efforts to seek out an alternative jail house for people who repeatedly violated court orders.
“When we are looking at a misdemeanor case where the defendant is clearly showing disregard for the Court’s orders and that person needs to be housed for a longer period of time, we will look to Big Horn County for vacancies in their jail,” said Rohde, adding that other county jails can also be contacted about housing misdemeanor prisoners if need be.
Most importantly, Rohde said she hopes that Judge Cornell’s actions catch the attention of repeat offenders,
“I am hopeful that over the next few weeks, the message gets out strong and clear that Judge Cornell expects defendants to fulfill the terms and conditions of their sentence,” said Rohde. “If a defendant chooses to be non-compliant and violate the Court’s orders, there will be consequences to such behavior.”