Probationer from meth, marijuana case gets one more chance

Prosecutor sought in-custody sentence
Thursday, November 19, 2020
Article Image Alt Text

There was one common theme through the court hearing regarding the future of Michael Wipf last week. At age 30, he needs to take con

At age 30, he needs to take control of his problems and live a responsible life.

“You are a grown man. It’s on your shoulders,” District Court Judge Matt Wald told Wipf.

At stake was Wipf’s freedom. Prosecutors and Wipf’s probation officer told Wald that since Wipf had been given a deferred sentence on a felony drug charge in 2019, he had struggled to live by the terms required. Namely, to stop using drugs, drinking alcohol and get help for those issues.

“(He’s) in dire need of treatment,” said Stillwater County Attorney Nancy Rohde, who along with Wipf’s probation officer, was recommending what amounted to a 3-year commitment to the Montana Department of Corrections and treatment.

Defense attorney Greg Paskell recommended another 3-year deferred DOC sentence with mandatory in-patient treatment at Wipf’s own expense.

Paskell presented testimony from Wipf’s brother, who supervises him at work and had himself called probation to report his brother was drinking on the job. The brother said he was willing to supervise Wipf and keep in employed, adding that he needs “to grow up and be held accountable for his actions.”

Wald rejected the deferred sentence, saying that Wipf did not deserve it as he had apparently not taken his sentence seriously the first time around. The judge also recognized that Wipf has made some progress and is seeking mental health treatment.

In the end, Wipf was given a 5-year suspended DOC sentence and was ordered to adhere to the 28 court-imposed conditions of probation.

Wald said the sentence reflected Wipf’s failure to adhere to probation and provided a consequence for failing to follow the court’s orders after being initially sentenced, as well as the progress Wipf has shown in accepting that he does need treatment.

THE ORIGINAL CASE

On Sept. 21, 2018, Wipf was stopped on East Pike Avenue in Columbus at 1 a.m. after being observed traveling at a high rate of speed by both Stillwater County Sheriff’s Deputy Cactus Anderson and Columbus Police Officer Aaron Uecker, according to court documents.

Officer Uecker clocked Wipf at 54 mph in a 35 mph zone and Deputy Anderson noted that it appeared as if Wipf’s vehicle was “in the air” as he crossed a dip at an intersection, due to his speed, according to court documents.

When Officer Uecker stopped Wipf, he noted that the vehicle was leaking fluids from hitting its undercarriage as it crossed the dip at an intersection.

When Wipf was asked to step out of the car, Deputy Anderson saw a glass smoking pipe on the driver’s side floorboard and could also smell the strong odor of an alcoholic beverage, along with the faint order of burnt marijuana, according to court documents. Deputy Anderson also noted those odors emanating from Wipf when he patted him down.

In the center console of the vehicle was a beer bottle and a baggie of a green leafy substance, suspected to be marijuana. Wipf refused to perform field sobriety tests, requested an attorney and was then arrested. The car was seized as evidence, pending a search warrant.

At the sheriff’s office, Wipf again refused to provide a breath sample. A review of his driving history revealed that Wifp had a prior refusal, so a search warrant was sought and obtained.

Later in the morning, Sheriff’s K-9 Figo was deployed and alerted to the presence of drugs near the driver’s side of the vehicle.

After a search warrant was obtained, Deputy Anderson found the following in the vehicle: 5.8 grams of marijuana in the center console, along with TOP rolling papers, a beer bottle, a grinder with marijuana residue in it, a popcorn bag containing a glass smoking pipe containing methamphetamine residue and two small baggies that appeared to have meth residue on them, according to court documents.