BUTTE – “John Emeigh you’ve been charged with being a ham on TV. How do you wish to plead today?” said City Judge Jerome McCarthy.
“Guilty, your honor,” said John Emeigh.
“And you will be ordered to 30 cans of SPAM in Lieu of a $185 fine,” said the judge.
During the holiday season, people can actually pay for their fines in Justice and City Court with non-perishable food items that will be donated to the food bank.
“We’ve had great success in helping out the food bank and bring in quite a bit of product to help those in need around the holiday season,” said McCarthy.
Butte’s City and Justice courts started this program about four years ago. It’s based on Montana law that allows donations to be made in place of cash payments for misdemeanor offenses. In that time, the courts collected thousands of pounds of donated food.
Judges say the program is popular among some defendants.
“It gives them an opportunity to give back to their community and when they come in with smiles on their faces saying their contributing, it means something to them,” said Butte Justice of the Peace Ben Pezdark.
People usually donate more food than asked.
“When we say 30 cans for food, sometimes we see 50, 60, even 90 cans of food, so it’s a good thing,” said Butte Justice of the Peace Jimm Kilmer.
The program goes from Dec. 7 to Dec. 21 where 30 cans of food will satisfy a $150 fine for the months of December and January.
“It’s a great thing this time of year to help families and kids, the elderly having difficulty at this time be able to provide them and offset their food costs,” said McCarthy.