Judge Denies Marion Man’s Motion to Withdraw Murder Plea

Mark Ames will appear in court for sentencing on May 11

By Justin Franz

A Flathead County judge has denied a Marion man’s motion to withdraw his Alford plea in a 2014 murder case.

Mark Ames is accused of shooting and killing his neighbor, Harold Gordon, in Marion on Jan. 12, 2014. Ames was charged with deliberate homicide and last fall he agreed to an Alford plea for an amended charge of mitigated deliberate homicide.

An Alford plea is filed when a defendant believes they are innocent but acknowledges that prosecution has enough evidence to find them guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The plea agreement stated that prosecutors would recommend to the court that Ames be sentenced to 40 years in Montana State Prison with 20 years suspended.

Early this year, Ames fired his public defenders because one of them had “raised his voice” at him and allegedly pressured him into taking a deal. Ames then filed a motion to withdraw his plea because he said he did not get proper representation. In April, Lane Bennett took over as Ames’ attorney.

On April 24, District Court Judge Heidi Ulbricht denied Ames’ motion to withdraw his plea. In her response, she stated there were no grounds for his motion following his testimony at his change of plea hearing.

“He acknowledged firing the AK-47 into Gordon’s home and that this precipitated Gordon coming outside with a shotgun,” Ulbricht wrote. “The Defendant testified that he retrieved a pistol and, upon Gordon’s entering into a heated argument with his wife on their front porch, (the) Defendant intervened and shot and killed Gordon with this pistol.”

According to court documents, Ames and Gordon had a long and troubled history. Gordon had filed a restraining order against Ames, but he was still living in the duplex apartment that Gordon owned.

Ames is due in Flathead County District Court on May 11 for sentencing.

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