State Commissioner Pleads No Contest After Crash

By Beacon Staff

LAUREL – Montana Public Service Commissioner Brad Molnar pleaded no contest to failing to give quick notice of a crash in a fast-food restaurant parking lot that totaled the car of a high school student. He was given a 20-day suspended jail sentence and fined $200.

Laurel City Judge Jean Kerr rejected a plea agreement calling for a deferred sentence and wasn’t pleased that Molnar didn’t appear in court Thursday as she had instructed, The Billings Gazette reported.

“I expected him to be here,” Kerr said.

Attorney Jack Sands said he had informed the court that he would be appearing on behalf of Molnar, and that state law did not require Molnar’s appearance.

When the judge rejected the plea agreement, Sands had to call Molnar, who decided to proceed with sentencing for a misdemeanor count of failing to give notice of an accident by quickest means.

Molnar was charged after Laurel High School senior Hailey Penne said his pickup backed over the hood of her car on Oct. 22. She said she thought they were going to pull over to exchange insurance information, but Molnar drove off. She followed the pickup, got the license plate number and called police.

Molnar has said he got out of the truck and spoke briefly to the driver of the car, which he said only had slight damage. He told a police officer he was unaware that he needed to exchange information, calling Penne’s car a “beater” that he didn’t think was worth $500.

After the hearing, Penne, 18, said her 1994 Pontiac might not have been the best car, but it was her first car.

“I paid for it myself,” she said. “There was a little bit of pride there.”