Canadian man sentenced in burglary case

Casey S. Elliott
Wednesday, July 29, 2020

A Canadian man who last year was found on an area ranch pleaded guilty but mentally ill, and was sentenced on felony burglary in Fifth Judicial District Court July 21.

Dustan Leadre Curtis was originally charged with other felonies stemming from the Sept. 1, 2019 incident at Circle S. Ranch. As part of a plea agreement, the remaining charges were dropped.

Curtis originally gave authorities a false name – the name of a “Breaking Bad” character – when arrested. When he pleaded not guilty to the charges last year, he claimed the federal government was trying to frame him. Since that time, Montana State Hospital doctors diagnosed and treated Curtis for his mental health condition, completely changing his demeanor, court officials said prior to the sentencing.

Beaverhead County Attorney Jed C. Fitch said the first time he met Curtis, the man was “raving,” and was violent toward deputies and detention officers while held in the Beaverhead County Jail. The second time Fitch saw Curtis he seemed a different person. That change, along with state hospital officials’ diagnosis, convinced him Curtis may not have understood what he was doing that day he was arrested.

“The experts at the state hospital felt Mr. Curtis was fit to proceed as long as he maintains his medication and treatment,” County Attorney Jed C. Fitch added.

Defense attorney Walter Hennessey agreed: “He can be a functioning member of society if he maintains his treatment.”

Prior to sentencing, Curtis apologized to the ranch owners and said he would never be found at their property again.

District Court Judge Luke Berger sentenced Curtis in line with the plea agreement – three years suspended in the Department of Health and Human Services’ care, with 325 days credited toward time served. However, that suspended sentence required Curtis leave Montana right after the court hearing and head straight for the Canadian border. Months of logistical work between county and federal immigrations officials went into the agreement, and they were expecting Curtis at the Canadian border that day. Curtis’ mother drove to Beaverhead County specifically for that purpose.

Curtis will not be allowed to return to the United States, Fitch added.

Berger stressed that point with Curtis at sentencing, noting if Curtis does not comply, his mother would likely be charged in any subsequent court cases as an accomplice.