BIGFORK, Mont. (AP) — The former editor of a weekly newspaper has pleaded no contest to disorderly conduct for his actions after he was arrested at the scene of a highway crash in northwestern Montana.
Vince Lovato Jr. of Polson entered the plea Monday to a charge that he yelled obscenities and made threats when he was arrested for failing to follow an order to step behind patrol cars while officers investigated the Oct. 1 head-on crash between a car and a truck on Montana Highway 35.
Lovato, 53, was fined $100 and paid $500 in court costs. Charges of obstructing a peace officer and resisting arrest were dismissed. The misdemeanor disorderly conduct charge can be removed from his record if he remains law abiding for six months. He has stepped down as editor and is now a reporter for the Lake County Leader in Polson, the Bigfork Eagle reported. Both newspapers are owned by Hagadone Montana Publishing LLC.
Prosecutors said the confrontation began when a Montana Highway Patrol trooper ordered Lovato to leave the area of the crash while Lovato was taking pictures.
Trooper Anthony Isbell said he was trying to extricate the driver of the car, secure the scene, gather evidence and make sure the area was safe because a diesel tanker involved in the crash was leaking brake fluid.
The disorderly conduct charge alleged Lovato began yelling profanity at Isbell and told him that he would “have his badge” and continued his “vitriolic tirade” during the 23-minute ride to the jail in Polson and while he was being booked.
Lovato’s attorney, Mike Meloy, sought dismissal of the charges, arguing Lovato was doing his job as a journalist and there was no probable cause to arrest him.
Meloy said Monday the plea agreement was the best result for both sides.