HAVRE — Hill County Attorney Jessica Cole-Hodgkinson is resigning in the face of ongoing criticism that she is unprepared to prosecute cases in the north-central Montana county.
The Havre Herald was first to report that Cole-Hodgkinson submitted her resignation Thursday. It is effective Monday. She was not in the office Friday.
Cole-Hodgkinson was recently ordered to appear in District Court to answer for shortcomings in seven cases and to appear in Justice Court to explain why work wasn’t completed in three others.
It is unclear whether her resignation will affect her having to appear for those hearings, the Havre Daily News reports. District Judge Dan Boucher and Justice of the Peace Audrey Barger were out of their offices Friday and unavailable to comment.
Cole-Hodgkinson was appointed in November 2016. In March 2017, a woman sued complaining that Cole-Hodgkinson put her in danger by dismissing assault charges against her former boyfriend.
Cole-Hodgkinson said at the time that the woman didn’t want to pursue the charges. The woman said she had talked with Cole-Hodgkinson a few days before the trial was scheduled to start and was prepared to testify.
The state prosecuted the case and Eric Hawley is serving a seven-year sentence for being a persistent felony offender for partner or family member assault, state records say.
Judges have dismissed charges in other cases, citing Cole-Hodgkinson’s lack of preparation.
Kaydee Snipes Ruiz, the regional deputy public defender in Havre, tells the Great Falls Tribune there are quite a few cases languishing because it’s been difficult to contact Cole-Hodgkinson to get discovery and other information needed to defend cases.
The agenda for the Hill County Commission meeting Monday says it will appoint a new county attorney for the remainder of the term.
Cole-Hodgkinson did not seek re-election and Deputy County Karen Alley won the Democratic primary in June. Republicans do not have a candidate in November’s general election.
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