A Bozeman man accused of threatening a Montana judge and others tried another judge's patience Thursday while pleading guilty to misdemeanor stalking but not guilty to more serious charges.
"You guys are a joke," a shackled and cuffed Josiah Wright said loudly as he was escorted out of District Judge Kurt Krueger's courtroom in Butte by an armed Powell County sheriff's deputy.
Wright repeatedly interrupted Krueger during Thursday's arraignment and kept talking at length when the judge asked him to simply admit what he did as a factual basis for his guilty plea to the misdemeanor.
Finally, after the third or fourth request from Krueger to make his statement short, Wright said he told an employee at the Montana State Hospital over the phone that "I believe you deserve death."
Wright, 35, faces numerous felony charges from Powell and Anaconda-Deer Lodge counties for allegedly threatening Montana District Judge Ray J. Dayton and state prison and mental hospital employees.
For security reasons, Wright's cases from both counties were transferred to Krueger. He is being held in the Anaconda jail with bond set at $75,000 in each case but was transported to Butte for both arraignments.
He pleaded not guilty last month to four felony counts of stalking and one misdemeanor count out of Anaconda. The misdemeanor carries a possible one-year jail term while the maximum for a felony is five years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
On Thursday, Wright pleaded guilty to misdemeanor stalking and not guilty to two felony counts of stalking and one felony count of intimidation. The intimidation charge carries a possible 10-year prison term and $50,000 fine.
His threats against Judge Dayton included such statements as "You haven't seen MY courtroom YET" and "Dayton, I will see you soon," prosecutors allege.
According to court records, Wright was involuntarily committed to Montana State Hospital in Warm Springs by Dayton in Powell County in late 2017.
The Powell County affidavit alleges that between Nov. 1, 2017, and March 6, 2018, Wright attempted to contact a caregiver at the state hospital, a mental health provider at Montana State Prison, and Dayton.
Among other things, prosecutors say, Wright used vulgar language to complain about a decision Dayton made, and his language made it clear that he intended to create a fear of retribution.
As a result, security was heightened through multiple law enforcement agencies in the Third Judicial District, and Dayton took steps to protect himself and his family.
The stalking charges from Anaconda allege that Wright directly threatened a worker at the state hospital over the phone and also made threats against her by contacting other hospital employees.
Wright was escorted in and out of Krueger's courtroom on Thursday by an armed deputy. When asked by Krueger to say what he did to warrant the misdemeanor charge, he started to talk at length about the incident.
Krueger stopped him at least three times and finally said, "I want a factual basis for your stalking." Wright also continued talking while Krueger was giving directions or asking questions, clearly irking the judge.
"You can speak when you are spoken to," Krueger told him.
Krueger ordered that bond remain at $75,000 in the Powell County case and set the next hearing for June 21.