UPDATE: Madison County commissioners voted unanimously in their Tuesday meeting to suspend Madison County Sheriff Roger Lee Thompson, who is facing charges of official misconduct, tampering with evidence, and perjury.
Thompson accepted the suspension and will receive three months’ pay with benefits. He is scheduled to appear in Madison County District Court on Oct. 1, 2018.
Reporting by Ken Spencer for MTN News
(First report) The Madison County Sheriff is facing charges of official misconduct, tampering with evidence and perjury after an investigation found that drugs and paraphernalia were missing after a drug investigation.
According to charging documents filed on Sept. 6, 2018, agents for the Division of Criminal Investigation of the Montana Department of Justice were investigating a complaint that Madison County Sheriff Roger Lee Thompson allegedly falsified information in a sworn affidavit for an application for a search warrant.
During the investigation, agents learned that Thompson had arranged a controlled drug buy for June 11, 2017, between a confidential informant and Martin James Walsh, a 53-year-old resident of Twin Bridges. Walsh later pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine was sentenced in U.S. District Court on Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2018.
Before the June 11 buy, the confidential informant met with Madison County Sheriff officers. During a search of the informant’s vehicle, no drugs were found, but a butane torch, glass pipe and plastic bag with methamphetamine were found on the informant. The items were taken from the informant.
The informant then conducted the controlled buy at Walsh’s residence. The informant then returned with heroin, reportedly purchased from Walsh.
A Madison County deputy transported the heroin and the drugs and paraphernalia taken from the informant to the Madison County Sheriff’s Office and photographed the items.
The items were reportedly then placed in an evidence bag, which was taken custody of by Thompson. Thompson allegedly told the deputy he would enter the items into evidence and would cover the controlled buy narrative in his report.
On June 12, 2017, Thompson presented an application of search warrant, where he wrote: “I met with the informant and searched him and his vehicle which were both free of any drugs and money.”
During the investigation, the deputy stated he didn’t know where Thompson took the items found on the informant but thought he may have taken them to his office. The Undersheriff was then contacted to look in the evidence locker for the drug evidence taken from the informant, but the drugs and paraphernalia were not located.
On May 1, 2018, Thompson was interviewed by agents who explained they were there because drugs had been found on the informant, yet Thompson reported none were found when he applied for the search warrant. When questioned, Thompson reportedly told the agents he didn’t recall drugs being found on the informant but did remember paraphernalia. When shown pictures of the drugs and the pipe, Thompson could not recall who took the photographs. When told the drugs were not located in the evidence locker and asked if they might be in his office, Thompson replied that they could be. The drugs and pipe were not located after a search of the locker and Thompson’s office.
Thompson is to make an initial appearance in Madison County District Court on Oct. 1, 2018.
Thompson faces charges of official misconduct, a misdemeanor with a maximum fine of up to $500 and maximum jail of 6 months; tampering with evidence, a felony with a maximum fine up to $50,000 and maximum prison of 10 years; and perjury, a felony with a maximum fine of up to $50,000 and maximum 10 years of prison.
When contacted by MTN News, various county officials were unable to comment on the case, but Undersheriff Phil Fortner said no deputies are involved in the case and “Business is operating as usual” in the office.