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Matthew Rodriguez

Matthew Rodriguez, center, is pictured here in October when pleading guilty to felony sexual assault of a 6-year-old girl in Butte. He skipped his sentencing hearing on Dec. 19 but was caught a few days later in Great Falls, where he faces new charges for allegedly assaulting police.

A man who didn’t appear for sentencing in Butte for sexually assaulting a 6-year-old girl has been arrested and charged in Cascade County for assaulting police officers and trying to run from them.

A bench warrant was issued for 32-year-old Matthew Joseph Rodriguez on Dec. 19 when he failed to appear for sentencing in District Court in Butte for allegedly having sex with the girl on at least three occasions in 2015.

A woman saw a photo of Rodriguez on Facebook, learned about the warrant and told Great Falls police on Dec. 23 that he was in her apartment. She “appeared to be in fear and was nearly in tears,” according to charging documents in Cascade County.

Police went to the location and arrested him on the outstanding warrant, but he picked up new charges by swinging and striking them and trying to flee, authorities say.

Samm Cox, the chief prosecutor in Butte-Silver Bow County, said Friday that he will seek a new sentencing date and then an order to have Rodriguez transferred back to Butte for that hearing. Then Cascade County can further pursue its new case, he said.

Rodriguez pleaded guilty in October to felony sexual assault of the girl. It was part of a plea agreement that reduced his charge from sexual intercourse without consent to sexual assault.

Both crimes are punishable by life in prison or a term “of not less than four years or more than 100 years" if the victim is less than 16 years old and the offender is four or more years older than the victim, as in Rodriguez's case.

But if someone is convicted of sexual intercourse without consent involving a victim under 12, the first 25 years of the sentence cannot be suspended or deferred and must be served before parole is possible. No such provision exists on the sexual assault charge Rodriguez pleaded guilty to.

Cox previously said his decision behind the plea deal was to spare the young victim from having to testify in person at trial.

District Judge Ed McLean issued the bench warrant last month when Rodgriguez did not show for sentencing, and as it turns out, he was located in Great Falls within three days.

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Prosecutors in Cascade County filed new charges Wednesday based on that arrest — one felony count of assaulting a peace officer and misdemeanor counts of obstructing a peace officer and resisting arrest.

According to the charging documents, police found him in the Great Falls apartment and said he was under arrest for the outstanding warrant from Butte.

He started thrashing about, swinging his arms at two officers and pushing them before one officer hit him multiple times in the face and head trying to subdue him, prosecutors say. Police used a Taser on him with “little or no effect” but finally cuffed him.

He pulled away and jumped down a flight of stairs before officers nabbed him again, and while placing him in the patrol car, he kicked an officer in the abdomen.

While en route to jail, prosecutors said, Rodriguez began kicking the door and window on the passenger side of the patrol car, forcing the driving officer to pull over and call for backup. After arriving, they put him in leg restraints.

Felony assault of an officer carries a minimum two-year prison term and maximum of 10 years and fine up to $50,000. The two misdemeanor charges against Rodriguez carry maxims of six months in jail and fine up to $500.

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Government and politics reporter

Reporter with emphasis on government and politics.

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