Crime and Courts

Jan 27, 2014 7:25 PM by Beth Saboe - MTN News

Confrontation with judge sends Tertelgte back to jail

BOZEMAN - A Manhattan man is back in jail after another confrontation with a local judge Monday.

Ernie Tertelgte, 52, appeared in Gallatin County Justice Court for a status hearing on a charge of fishing without a license and resisting arrest. But the routine hearing ended with Tertelgte in handcuffs and his supporters in disbelief.

The hearing opened with a request by Justice of the Peace Rick West that Tertelgte remove his signature three point hat in the courtroom. Tertelgte repeatedly refused and protested loudly. Justice West asked him twice to stop yelling and held him in contempt when Tertelgte did not comply.

Justice West sentenced him to 30 days in jail and a $500 fine.

Outside the courtroom, nearly two dozen people had gathered in support of Tertelgte. However, the hearing was over before most of them were allowed in.

Security was higher than normal, with close to 20 law enforcement officers on hand. Anyone interested in getting into the courtroom had to go through a metal detector and most of Tertelgte's supporters were just filing in as he was being escorted to the detention center.

One man, who only identified himself as a Montana resident, said he was there to protest the "unjust government."

"Taking off your hat is not illegal, it's not immoral, it's not unethical and if the judge makes a law that somebody has to take it off, all that's doing is forcing his will upon a man who has his own alienable rights and it's unjust," he told us.

Another twist to Monday's court hearing was a ban on cameras in the courtroom. Before asking Tertelgte to remove his hat, Justice West announced that no video, photos or recordings would be allowed during the hearing.

The charges against him stem from an Aug. 31 incident which a state game warden attempted to cite Tertelgte for fishing without a license at the Three Forks Pond, which is a state-managed area.

In court, FWP warden Adam Pankratz said Tertelgte refused to give him his name when approached. He was fishing with his 11-year-old son that day and the warden told the court he and a Three Forks police officer repeatedly tried to stop the situation from escalating, but Tertelgte refused to comply.

The case is gaining national attention as a video of Tertelgte's initial appearance in Three Forks has been viewed more than 795,000 times.

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