Jury: Billings man guilty of having meth, LSD, heroin at park

Thursday, September 22, 2022
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A Stillwater County jury took approximately an hour to reject a Billings man’s claim that the methamphetamine, LSD and heroin police found in his shirt pocket at Itch-Kep-Pe Park in 2021 had been drugs that he discovered at his campsite and intended to throw away so his then 6-year-old son wouldn’t find them.

A 3-woman, 9-man jury found Frank Wayne Reinke guilty of three separate felony counts of criminal possession of dangerous drugs and one misdemeanor count of criminal possession of drug paraphernalia following a 2-day trial in district court.

The jury was thanked for its service by District Judge Matt Wald and dismissed. Reinke, 57, kept his head down and wiped away tears. He also told Wald that he was going to appeal the verdict.

A presentence investigation was ordered and a sentencing date in November was set. Reinke, who has been free on $50,000 bond for more than a year, was allowed to remain free pending sentencing. Wald noted that Reinke has appeared for all of his court hearings thus far.

When setting a sentencing date, defense attorney Blaine McGivern told Wald that Reinke also has three current cases against him pending in Yellowstone County — with at least one of those expected to go to trial.

Reinke is already a multi-convicted felon who has served three prison terms, according to federal court documents and Deputy Stillwater County Attorney Ryan Addis, who was the primary prosecutor in the case.

Reinke was originally charged with felony Assault on a Minor for the Itch-Kep-Pe Park incident, but that charge was dismissed and prosecutors instead went forward with the drug charges. When asked why the assault charge had been dismissed, Addis told the News that because Reinke has already stated his plan to appeal his convictions, he cannot make any comment at this time.

THE JURY

The jury was given the case to deliberate at approximately 10:02 a.m.  At approximately 10:50 a.m., the jury sent out a note to Judge Wald, which Wald read in open court while the jury was still sequestered.

The 2-part question was as follows:

•Could the jury ask the Wald a question?

•If the jury could not ask the judge a question, could it make a sentencing recommendation?

With the agreement of the Stillwater County Attorney’s Office and Reinke’s two attorneys, Judge Wald sent the jury back a note that stated the following:

•A jury can ask a judge any question.

•In Montana, a jury is not involved in the sentencing phase of a case.

Within five minutes of receiving Judge Wald’s response, the jury informed the bailiff it had reached a verdict.

TRIAL FACTS

The basic facts were not in dispute at trial — Reinke, through his attorney, acknowledged that he in fact did have the drugs on him and a pipe in the tent.

McGivern told jurors what was in dispute is why Reinke had the drugs, if he had them long enough to determine possession and whether or not he knew all three substances were in fact illegal drugs — although McGivern did concede that Reinke knew one of the substances was meth.

McGivern also said it was Reinke’s intent to dispose of the drugs and simply did not have enough time to do so, due to being “interrupted” by law enforcement.

Addis told jurors that the case was very black and white. Under Montana law, Addis said, possessing drugs is illegal. Addis also said that Reinke could have called law enforcement about the drugs or immediately disposed of them, but he did not – instead “he kept them all.”

Addis also said that Reinke’s explanation did not make sense because most citizens would have called the police upon making such a discovery. Following the defense’s theory, Addis said it would essentially be “Finders Keepers” — meaning that it would be legal to pick up or possess anything illegal “as long as you plan on getting rid of it.”

WITNESSES

The prosecution presented four witnesses — Columbus Police Officer Jarod Vance, who was the arresting officer: Stillwater County Sheriff’s Deputy Lucas Bruursema, who assisted: Columbus Police Chief Gary Timm who handles all evidence for the department and Montana State Crime Lab forensic chemist Brook Knapp, who tested the drugs.

Also presented as evidence were portions of video from Officer Vance’s bodycam and dashboard camera, which showed the search and discovery of drugs in Reinke’s pocket.

The actual drugs and drug pipe were also entered as evidence and shown to the jury.

Reinke was the sole defense witness.

DISCREPANCIES IN TESTIMONY

Officer Vance testified that when he found the drugs in Reinke’s pocket, Reinke told him that he had found the drugs on the picnic table at his campsite, put them in his pocket and had forgotten about them.

When Reinke took the witness stand at trial, he testified that he found drugs, along with a pipe, in the grass near the table. Reinke said he put the pipe on his cot in his tent.

SERIES OF EVENTS

A soft-spoken Reinke described himself as a 57-year-old “single dad” who on June 3, 2021, borrowed his mother’s car and left Billings with his son to go camping to “get away.” Reinke described finding one camp spot left at Itch-Kep-Pe. He estimated that he and his son went to bed around 1 a.m.

Around 10 a.m. the next morning, the pair awoke and his son left the tent to play with some children by the river, according to Reinke’s testimony. McGivern asked Reinke if he smoked marijuana at that time.

“I had a hit or two,” said Reinke. McGivern also asked about marijuana cigarettes found in his car, which Reinke said were his. Reinke said it helps with his joints. He also said his speech can sound slurred due to a history of Bells Palsy.

Reinke testified that after smoking pot, he began packing up camp and starting making something for breakfast for his son. Shortly after that is when police arrived.

THE INTERRUPTION

The reason for the police “interruption” that had been referenced by McGivern was that officers had been called to the park on a report that Reinke allegedly assaulted his young son.

Because the assault charge had been dismissed by prosecutors, they were not allowed to make any mention or reference to it during the trial.

However, McGivern and Reinke opened the door to that topic when Reinke took the witness stand and spoke about trying to be a good father, according to Addis.

The last question that Addis asked Reinke was if police made contact with him on that day because of a report that he had assaulted his son. Reinke replied yes.