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Jury Trial Comes To Speedy Conclusion, Newton Found Guilty Of Four Felonies

Levi Eric Clark Newton, 24, was found guilty of four felonies and one misdemeanor at a jury trial at the Roosevelt County Courthouse on Tuesday, Feb. 19.

The felony charges against Newton include two counts of criminal endangerment, one count of assault with a weapon and one count of unlawful possession of a firearm by a convicted person. He was also convicted of one count of reckless driving, a misdemeanor.
Newton was found not guilty of attempted deliberate homicide, a felony, and one count of shooting from across a road or highway right-of-way, a misdemeanor.
Presiding Judge David Cybulski of the 15th District Court in Wolf Point set of goal of one day in court for the trial, including jury selection. Casey Moore from the public defender office in Glasgow and Cynthia Thornton from the defender office in Glendive represented Newton. During deliberations the jury requested clarifications on the criminal endangerment charges and the assault with a weapon charge. The jury deliberated for approximately 85 minutes before rendering its verdict.
An affidavit prepared by former Roosevelt County Attorney Ralph J. Patch states, “On Jan. 5, 2018, at approximately 1555 hours, Roosevelt County Dispatch Center received a call from a ‘Zack Fails,’ stating he was driving into Culbert-
son and there was a gray Escalade behind him shooting at him.”
The affidavit summarizes reports from Sgt. Orin Cantrell, Sgt. Tim Lingle, Deputy Devon Hughes-Munden, Deputy Jared Standing, Lt. Patrick O’Connor and Deputy Pilar Kunz of the Roosevelt County Sheriff’s Office.
The document describes the caller’s additional claim that Newton attempted to hit Bruce with a gray Ford Expedition with Wyoming plates. None of the vehicles described were located at that time.
On Jan. 6, Lingle interviewed a witness at the Williston, N.D., Police Department. The witness said he had been inside a vehicle being driven by Newton and witnessed Newton shooting a firearm at an individual in another car. According to the witness, Newton owed him $1,400 in rent money and they went together to Fairview, where Newton planned to collect the $1,400.
At The Fairview Inn, Newton allegedly became upset when he couldn’t locate the funds and drove the witness and a woman from Poplar to Bainville to try and locate the man who had collected the money he was owed.
In Bainville, Newton attempted to hit the man, identified later as James Bruce, with his vehicle. The vehicle missed Bruce and Newton allegedly attempted to shoot Bruce, but his weapon misfired. Bruce then fled, with Newton giving chase. The chase started in Bainville and ended near Big Horn Hill, east of Brockton.
As they approached Culbertson, Newton fired two rounds at Bruce’s vehicle with either an Armalite Rifle 15 or a Kel Tech rifle. The chase and sounds of gunfire were witnessed by five juveniles who were on the south side of U.S. Highway 2, waiting to cross to Val-Am Stop-N-Go.
Newton pulled off on the north side of the highway and attempted to hide the firearms. The firearms were later located by law enforcement.
On Jan. 6, officers located a Pontiac Aztec in Poplar fitting the description from the previous day. They pulled the vehicle over and identified the driver as James Bruce. The Pontiac Aztec was towed to an impound lot in Wolf Point, where a search revealed a small caliber bullet entry hole and an apparent exit hole from the same bullet, as well as plastic shards from the inside panel of the rear tailgate and a bullet fragment, among other items.
Criminal endangerment carries a maximum of 10 years imprisonment. Assault with a weapon carries a maximum $50,000 fine and imprisonment up to 20 years. Unlawful possession of a firearm by a convicted person brings a sentence of not less than two years with a maximum of 10 years. The reckless driving carries a maximum of 90 days in jail.
A sentencing date will be set after completion of a pre-sentence investigation report by Probation & Parole.
Roosevelt County Attorney Austin Knudsen shared courtroom responsibilities with Deputy County Attorney Frank A. Piocos. It was Knudsen’s first jury trial in his new position with the county. He told The Herald-News, “I thought it went well. We got convictions and he’s facing some serious jail time. I think on the top end he’s looking at 50 years.”