Prosecutors are appealing Missoula County Justice of the Peace Marie Andersen’s decision to toss out a domestic abuse case because she hadn't been given enough notice that the man intended to plead guilty.
Micah Lozier was charged with four misdemeanors, including two counts of partner assault, after allegedly beating up a woman at her Lolo home in January, sending her to the hospital with a concussion and bruises.
On April 30, prosecutors offered a plea agreement to Lozier and his attorney, public defender Brian Yowell. But it was rejected and, on May 1, the parties confirmed they would be going to trial.
But on May 31, the day before the bench trial before Justice of the Peace Andersen was set to begin, Yowell made a counteroffer in plea negotiations to the prosecution, which they accepted. Half an hour before court closed for business that day, Yowell filed paperwork asking for the trial to be vacated and to instead use the time for Lozier to plead guilty.
Attorneys for both sides arrived in court on June 1 without having heard from Andersen on the change. Andersen, according to the prosecution's appeal, told the lawyers that because the motion to switch from a trial to a guilty plea hearing was not filed with enough time, she would not accept it.
Yowell told the judge that his client was willing to either change his plea in court that morning or reschedule the hearing to give the judge more time, but she told him neither of those would happen.
According to the prosecution's appeal, Andersen said that if she had been given more notice she could have scheduled other cases for that morning, and that this was not the first time the issue had come up.
She then dismissed the criminal case altogether “without providing a legal basis or any additional reasoning,” prosecutor Ryan Mickelson wrote in his appeal of the decision.
Andersen did not return an email asking for comment.
The appeal will be heard by a judge from Missoula County District Court.