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A 41-year-old man who has been in and out of custody across Montana throughout the year after posting bond in criminal cases or being released by a judge was sentenced Monday for stealing cars from a Missoula dealership.

Aragorn Berger, 41, still has pending cases in Silver Bow and Gallatin counties, where he racked up new charges during two of the times he was out of custody throughout the year.

According to records from the county attorney’s office, Missoula County District Court Judge Leslie Halligan imposed a 20-year Department of Corrections sentence with 15 of those years suspended on Berger. Prosecutors had requested a 20-year sentence to the Montana State Prison with three of those years suspended.

Berger was charged in January in Missoula after stealing cars and other items — including a surveillance system — from a Missoula car dealership. He quickly posted a $10,000 bond in the case, only to be arrested again in March on a warrant issued after a series of driving offenses.

In late March, Halligan released Berger onto pretrial supervision, but less than a week later a new warrant was issued after he stopped reporting to his supervising officer. Berger was arrested in North Dakota in April after leading police on a chase in a stolen car.

When he was returned to Missoula, Berger again posted his bail, and was arrested in July on a new warrant for more violations of his release conditions.

In September, Halligan again released Berger so he could attend voluntary addiction treatment in Butte. A week after being released, Berger was arrested in Butte and charged with a new felony after being found loading backpacks and tools into the back of a man’s truck the same day he left the treatment center and — according to court documents — may have stolen property from the center.

Despite a new Missoula warrant being filed that should have held him in custody in Butte, Berger was released there after posting the bond for his new felony charge. Days later, he was arrested in West Yellowstone after leading officers on a high-speed — and occasionally off-road — chase in a car with stolen license plates, according to court documents. That chase ended when he hit a Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks patrol vehicle.

Last month, Berger pleaded guilty to felonies for burglary and theft in his Missoula case.

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Law and Justice Reporter

Crime reporter for the Missoulian.