GREAT FALLS — A Great Falls man accused of intentionally swerving his vehicle into a Cascade County sheriff’s deputy during a “drug-fueled rampage” had been released from jail two weeks earlier after state drug and weapons charges were dismissed with the expectation they would be refiled in federal court, a county prosecutor said.
A federal conviction on the charges the state dismissed would have led to a significant mandatory prison sentence for Adam Sanchez Jr., County Attorney John Parker told the Great Falls Tribune on Friday.
Sanchez, 40, is jailed on $5 million bail after being charged with deliberate homicide in the Aug. 14 death of Deputy Joe Dunn.
Before that, Sanchez was charged with nine felonies after an attempted robbery and chase in November. He was suspected of shooting at a man with a crossbow and leading deputies on the chase that resulted in a patrol car hitting another vehicle. He posted $25,000 bond and was free when he was arrested on the firearm and drug charges in April.
Sanchez pleaded guilty July 30 to two counts of criminal endangerment for the November incident in an agreement that called for a probationary sentence. The next day, charges that Sanchez was found in possession of methamphetamine and a concealed handgun were dismissed and he was released from custody pending sentencing in the endangerment case and with the expectation that federal prosecutors would file charges.
“This was done to obtain a higher level of accountability for Sanchez’s actions,” Parker wrote in a statement to the Tribune.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a statement Friday afternoon that “there was no federal pending case or matter referred to the U.S. Attorney’s office” when Sanchez was released.
Matthew McKittrick, Sanchez’s public defender in the homicide case, told The Associated Press on Friday that it was his understanding that preparations for federal prosecution were underway.
McKittrick said there has been no evidence submitted to the defense yet supporting the new charges.
“Mr. Sanchez will get a thorough and vigorous defense from the state Public Defender’s Office as we see the evidence turned over by the state of Montana,” he said.
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