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Former Tommyknockers GM arrested, charged with burglary

Dane Wagner booking mug

Dane Wagner

Police say they arrested Dane Wagner, the fired former general manager of the troubled Tommyknockers baseball club in Butte, for going into a mental health clinic at 22 West Park St. without permission and taking a space heater.

He was booked into jail shortly after 2 a.m. Tuesday, and though released later that day, faces a felony burglary charge. The Montana Standard left voice mails with Wagner and the team seeking comment.

The arrest came only hours after J.P. Gallagher, Butte-Silver Bow’s chief executive, made it known publicly he wants to sever a lease allowing the team to play at 3 Legends Stadium after its inaugural season this summer and cut all ties to Expedition League baseball.

The baseball club also has an office in the building at 22 West Park, but when police arrived shortly before 1:30 a.m. Tuesday, Wagner was sleeping in a vacant office and using a space heater taken from the Alpenglow Clinic, a chemical dependency and mental health facility in the same building.

“He was sleeping in an office with no furniture and a few toiletries and some clothing and a blanket,” Sheriff Ed Lester said, citing information from a police report.

Lester said Wagner, 36, had no business being in the clinic but an employee there had seen him on surveillance video “looking around the receptionist counter” and called police.

The employee didn’t know who it was, Lester said, “But the management of this clinic said he had absolutely no reason to be at the counter and taking a space heater from their office.”

According to the police report, Wagner told officers he had arrived in Butte from out of town that night and was supposed to be getting a key to the Tommyknockers office but couldn’t get in.

Wagner was booked into jail on a felony complaint of burglary at 2:12 a.m. and was charged later that day by prosecutors. He made an initial appearance before Justice of the Peace Ben Pezdark, who released him under pre-trial services conditions and an order prohibiting from being at the health clinic.

Pre-trial conditions include regular contact with court officials and making all court appearances, among other things. If Wagner fails any of them, he can be rearrested with bond set at $25,000.

Defendants do not enter guilty or not guilty pleas to felony complaints during initial appearances in Butte Justice Court. That is done later during arraignments in District Court.

Wagner is the son of Steve Wagner, who brought college-level Expedition League baseball to Butte and established the Mining City Tommyknockers. Dane Wagner was the club’s general manager and took most of the early heat for problems that became public when the team abruptly canceled its last six games on Aug. 1.

The team announced the cancellation via Twitter without explanation, but players provided several. They said there weren’t enough host families to house them this summer, food was inadequate and they had no medical personnel, among other things.

Dane Wagner was subsequently fired, and Steve Wagner appeared before commissioners on Aug. 25 and said there were numerous “corrective action plans” in the works for next season. Among other things, new owners and managers with baseball experience were being sought.

But Gallagher wants to cut all ties to the team and league, and on Monday, the county’s Parks and Recreation Board endorsed his recommendation that a five-year lease at 3 Legends Stadium in Butte be canceled.

Gallagher cited numerous problems already public but said the “nail in the coffin” occurred several weeks ago when the club abandoned a concession stand at the Copper Mountain Sports Complex with beer and rotting food left out.

He said he isn’t clear if he needs approval from the Council of Commissioners to cancel the lease, but if he gets a legal OK on doing that from the county attorney, he will advise commissioners about his stand. Several of them have criticized the team’s operations.

Steve Wagner told the Standard on Monday that it was his understanding the concession stand was left in good order. He also said the club had a corrective-action plan and still wanted to pursue it.

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