Since being charged with two felonies for allegedly stealing cars from a Missoula dealership in January, 41-year-old Aragorn Berger has been re-arrested several times while out on bail or after being released by a judge.
Berger's growing case file lays out a consistent pattern:
In April — following an arrest for an alleged jail release violation in Missoula — he was arrested in North Dakota for stealing another car and getting into a police chase. He was convicted in North Dakota and brought back to Missoula for violating the terms of his release here set by Missoula County District Court Judge Leslie Halligan.
He posted bond again, and was released — only to be arrested again in July on another Missoula warrant after he absconded from supervision. In early September, Halligan released him from jail to attend a voluntary addiction treatment program.
On Sept. 14, he was arrested in Butte on new charges after leaving the treatment program.
Days after bonding himself out of jail in Butte, authorities homed in on Berger in West Yellowstone on Friday, and watched an apartment there. But Berger drove away — in a car with stolen license plates — leading officers from several agencies on a car chase off the road and through a field.
He drove his car back onto the road, where he eventually hit a Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks patrol vehicle. Berger was arrested, and officers found he was carrying a plastic baggie with pills of various medications, according to court documents.
Gallatin County Justice Court set his bail at $75,000, in addition to the $150,000 from another Missoula warrant.
Berger’s criminal case in Missoula started in late January, when he was arrested for allegedly stealing cars and other items — including the surveillance system — from a Missoula car dealership.
Within days, he posted a $10,000 bond on the felony theft and burglary charges, then was arrested in early March on a new warrant after accruing several driving offenses and being the suspect in other thefts in the Missoula area that happened after his release.
At the end of March, Halligan released Berger to pretrial supervision without having to post the new bond that she had imposed. Within a week, prosecutors again asked for him to be taken into custody, saying Berger had admitted to his supervising officer that he had been drinking — a violation of his release conditions — and had not provided a urine sample.
District Court Judge Robert “Dusty” Deschamps issued a new $100,000 warrant and Berger was eventually arrested in North Dakota following the chase in Argusville in a stolen car.
Berger again quickly posted bond on the $100,000 bail amount, only to see his release revoked again for claims of more release condition violations, and a new $50,000 warrant issued for his arrest by Halligan. In July, Berger was picked up on the warrant in Lincoln County.
Through his attorney, Berger made a request to be released so he could attend addiction treatment at the Montana Chemical Dependency Center in Butte. On Sept. 6, over the objection of prosecutors, Halligan released him so he could attend the treatment session.
But on Sept. 14, Berger was arrested and charged with felony theft as well as criminal trespass to a vehicle after a man found Berger loading backpacks and tools into the back of the man’s vehicle, which was parked outside a hotel. Berger would not explain to the man how he got into his truck, but the topper on the vehicle had been pried open.
Earlier that day, Berger left the treatment center after failing to complete its program, and according to court documents filed in his case, may have stolen property from the treatment center as he left
The day after his arrest in Butte, Missoula Deputy County Attorney Karla Painter filed for, and Halligan signed, a new $150,000 warrant for Berger's arrest. On Sept. 17, after posting the $10,000 bond on his new charges, Berger was released. Painter said Monday she does not know why he did not remain in custody in Butte on the active Missoula warrant.
Painter said due to the seriousness of Berger’s original charges and his repeated violations, she had opposed his release from jail to attend the Butte treatment program from the beginning.