GF woman gets probation for high-speed chase on I-90

Thursday, December 16, 2021

A Great Falls woman will spend three years on probation with the Montana Department of Corrections and pay $1,085 in fines and fees for leading police on a high-speed chase on I-90 that reached speeds of 121 mph, followed by a short foot chase.

Kelly Joanne Conley, 34, must also follow 39 courtimposed conditions during her probation and was given credit for six days she has already served in jail.

The sentence was handed down last week in 22nd Judicial District Court last week for one felony count of criminal endangerment and one misdemeanor count of obstructing a peace officer in connection to a May 2021 incident.

District Judge Matt Wald followed the joint sentence recommendation that was made by Deputy Stillwater County Attorney Ryan Addis and defense attorney Brian Haynes.

Haynes said that at the time of the crime, there were “stressors” in Conley’s life. Wald said that Conley must manage those “stressors.”

Before she was sentenced, Conley told Wald that she had been doing everything the court had instructed her to do and mentioned that her husband had recently suffered a stroke and the couple had a baby one month ago.

“Why you’re in front of me is that you put the community in danger,” Wald told Conley.

The judge also issued a warning.

“I don’t want to take you away from that child, but I will if I have to,” Wald told Conley.

The sentence will also run concurrently to a recently handed down sentence in Yellowstone County. Wald noted that he rarely runs his sentence concurrent with those in other jurisdictions, but said the charges in the other case were older and he was pleased with the steps Conley had taken to get her life back in order. Those Yellowstone County charges involved two felony counts of possession of dangerous drugs, one from 2017 and one from 2018.

Wald also noted that his sentence provided for community safety through probation, provided accountability and structure for Conley, gives her the opportunity to become a productive citizen and also gives him tools should there be problems in the future.

THE CASE

On May 27, 2021, at approximately 2:30 p.m., a Montana Highway Patrol (MHP) trooper saw Conley’s black SUV pass by with a shattered windshield and making a loud noise due to a malfunctioning muffler, according to court documents.

The trooper followed Conley’s SUV and saw her “cut” from the left lane to the right lane without using a signal, then cut in front of a pickup truck and camper to take exit 408 into Columbus.

C o n l e y t h e n h e a d e d toward Town Pump, turning left without signaling, with the trooper following. Conley then drove from the front to the back of Town Pump, where the trooper saw Conley backing into a parking spot, according to court documents.

The trooper then conducted a traffic stop, which was met with an argument from Conley about the reasons for the stop. The trooper could see clothing and trash on the floor and the seat of the SUV and asked Conley for her driver’s license.

After reaching for a black case, she told the trooper that she didn’t have any identification. At the point, the trooper asked Conley to get out of the vehicle so he could identify her.

As the trooper began to walk towards the front of the vehicle, Conley put the SUV in drive and fled the scene, heading eastbound on I-90 in moderate traffic at speeds of 100 mph, according to court documents. Conley weaved through traffic and one point, “cut recklessly into the left lane and forced another vehicle to the right as it passed on the left,” according to court documents. At one point, Conley nearly struck a guardrail while passing vehicles. Due to the amount of traffic and Conley’s “driving behavior,” law enforcement backed off the pursuit a bit. Down the road, two MHP Troopers Brett Riesinger and John Metcalfe prepared spike strips near mile marker 423 in hopes of ending the pursuit.

Conley did hit one set of spikes, causing the SUV to go into the center median and become disabled.

Conley then fled the vehicle, running northbound “with her black purse in hand” and onto I-90, causing motorists to take evasive action to avoid hitting her, according to court documents. Conley then ran west and crawled through the Montana Department of Transportation fence that separates the Highway 10 from I-90. A trooper jumped the fence and caught Conley in the middle of the road. While being questions,

Conley “became hysterical and acted as if she was hyperventilating,” according to court documents. She provided her name, but would not prove her date of birth. Upon arrival at the Yellowstone County Detention Facility, Conley said she had a crushed pipe in her bra, which she gave the trooper.

She also pulled from her bra cash, banking cards and a Washington identity card that did not belong to her, according to court documents. Conley said that she found the ID card and knew the owner.