Judge lowers the boom on grandmother in perjury case

By: 
Marlo Pronovost
Thursday, July 18, 2019
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Saying she had “serious questions” about the level of responsibility that Rebecca Haaland has accepted in her perjury case, a district court judge this week imposed a harsher sentence than what had been sought in a joint prosecution-defense plea agreement.

Judge Brenda Gilbert noted Haaland’s demeanor in court, statements she made to a Montana Department of Corrections (DOC) probation officer and the fact that she had entered a “no contest” plea to the felony perjury charge were factors in her sentence.

That sentence was a 4-year deferred commitment to the DOC, a $500 fine, the requirement that Haaland pay the cost of her own probation supervision and a 2-year restriction that she have no contact with the father of Haaland’s grandchild, the grandchild and any other members of the father’s family.

The joint sentencing recommendation had called for a 2-year deferred sentence and a $500 fine.

When asked if she wanted to make a statement prior to sentencing, Haaland asked for “a thorough investigation of CPS (child protective services) in Yellowstone County.”

Judge Gilbert, who was a substitute judge on the case from the 13th Judicial District, also noted that of all the probation conditions imposed on Haaland, the most key was the mental health evaluation, which must be done and filed with the court within 45 days.

THE CASE

The Stillwater County Attorney’s Office alleged that in March 2018, during an official court hearing, Haaland knowingly made false statements under oath regarding certain questions about “the circumstances surrounding her grandson’s birth father and custodial situation,” in an attempt to persuade the court to grant her guardianship of her grandchild, according to court documents.

The custodial interference charge stems from Haaland successfully getting a court order (through the alleged perjury) for guardianship of the grandchild and physically taking the grandchild from the father’s home “without the permission or knowledge of the Montana Department of Health & Human Services, who the defendant was aware had temporary investigatory authority of the minor,” according to court documents.

The case started in February 2018, when Haaland filed a petition for guardianship of the child in 22nd Judicial District Court, asserting that the child had lived with her since birth (on and off). Haaland also asserted that no father was listed on the birth certificate or was active in the child’s life and that no court had appointed a guardian to the child, according to court documents.

In March 2018, Haaland testified to then District Judge Blair Jones that the child had lived primarily with her and her husband and that during the past 3 ½ years, she had never seen a paternity test or been contacted by anyone concerning the child’s father, according to court documents. Based on Haaland’s testimony, Jones awarded Haaland and her husband guardianship of the child.

Immediately following the hearing, Haaland took the guardianship paperwork to Glendive and retrieved the grandchild from his father, according to court documents. Law enforcement was called to the home and after a Dawson County Sheriff’s deputy reviewed the guardianship paperwork issued in Stillwater County, Haaland was allowed to leave with the child, according to court documents.

Shortly after Haaland left, the deputy learned that DPHHS had custody of the child and that took precedent over any court order. Deputies found Haaland’s vehicle, stopped it and returned the child to his father, according to court documents.

During the investigation, it was discovered that the child was the subject of a dependent-neglect case in Yellowstone County and that just prior to the March court hearing in Still-water County, the state had been granted “Temporary Investigative Authority” of the child, and the child was placed with his father in Dawson County, according to court documents.

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