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Judge holds former Hill County attorney in contempt of court

August 7, 2018

HAVRE, Mont. (AP) — A north-central Montana judge fined the former Hill County attorney $1,500 and ordered her to serve six days on house arrest for contempt of court.

Jessica Cole-Hodgkinson appeared before Justice of the Peace Audrey Barger on Tuesday to explain why she didn’t show up in Justice Court or find a substitute to handle three cases that Deputy County Attorney Karen Alley could not prosecute because she had conflicts as a former defense attorney.

Cole-Hodgkinson said she was out of town at the time because her service dog needed emergency care and she expected her staff to let her know if they had conflicts, the Havre Daily News reported.

Barger said that during hearings on July 16, Alley told the court she had advised Cole-Hodgkinson about her conflicts in those cases by text, email and telephone and Cole-Hodgkinson had not responded.

Barger told Cole-Hodgkinson her actions were disruptive to the court.

Cole-Hodgkinson said she disagreed with the court findings and planned to file for a review in District Court. Barger delayed the sentence for 30 days.

Cole-Hodgkinson resigned in late July amid criticism she was unprepared for court hearings, in some cases leading to charges being dismissed. One dismissed case was a partner or family member assault that the state successfully prosecuted, getting a seven-year prison sentence.

Cole-Hodgkinson had also been ordered to appear in District Court last week to show cause for why she failed to file judgments as required in other cases. The hearings were vacated after sentences were imposed in those seven cases.

Alley was named county attorney last week. She won the Democratic primary and is running unopposed in November.

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Information from: Havre Daily News, http://www.havredailynews.com

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