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Gardipe sentenced for drugs; still facing two trial dates

by Jeff Smith/For the Leader
| December 7, 2023 12:00 AM

A Big Arm man was sentenced in Polson District Court Nov. 29 to five years in the Montana State Prison with no time suspended for possessing methamphetamine.

Junior Gardipe, 36, entered a plea of guilty to criminal possession of dangerous drugs just prior to his sentencing. He admitted that he possessed the drug on Feb. 8.

Judge Molly Owen outlined a lengthy criminal history in delivering a harsher punishment that is usual for a simple possession charge. She noted that Gardipe has three prior felony convictions, never participated in any programs to better himself, and had 27 conduct violations while he was incarcerated at the Montana State Prison.

Gardipe was found not guilty Aug. 1 on two counts of assault with a weapon and robbery after a jury trial in Polson District Court. Gardipe was accused of threatening two people with a machete in Pablo on July 29, 2021. However, a key witness in the case changed her version of events and the two victims did not show up for the trial that began July 31.

It was later learned that Gardipe allegedly got his sister, Charlie Justine Marie Gardipe, 24, to convince the key witness to change her story by threatening violence from another female inmate. This happened during a time that both Gardipes and the key witness were all incarcerated in the Lake County Jail.

This was not the first time Gardipe was accused of threatening people with a machete. He was charged with two counts of assault with a weapon for allegedly wielding a machete at two people in Arlee Nov. 26, 2019. The state was forced to dismiss those charges.

Most recently, Gardipe was charged with assault with a weapon and intimidation for threatening a person with a hatchet June 16. Judge Owen set that case for trial Dec. 4.

Gardipe is facing another trial Feb. 5 on charges of tampering and intimidation for allegedly interfering with last summer’s trial.