Retired Kalispell Police Officer Receives Suspended Jail Sentence

Anthony John McDonnell's blood alcohol content was more than three times the legal limit when he slammed into an unmarked Flathead County Sheriff’s vehicle

By Maggie Dresser
The Flathead County Justice Center in Kalispell. Beacon File Photo

A retired sergeant with the Kalispell Police Department will avoid serving any jail time for his role in a drunken car wreck with a Flathead County Sheriff’s sergeant that occurred nearly one year ago after both men were drinking at a Kalispell brewery.

Anthony John McDonnell entered a plea agreement in the case earlier this month, admitting to a misdemeanor charge of aggravated driving under the influence. The court dismissed a separate felony charge of criminal endangerment and agreed to a one-year sentence in the Flathead County Detention Center, suspending all but seven days of that term, which McDonnell was allowed to serve on house arrest. He also must pay a $1,000 fine and complete a chemical dependency evaluation.

Judge Amy Eddy presided over the Nov. 10 sentencing hearing in Flathead County District Court. Under the conditions of his suspended sentence, McDonnell must stay out of trouble and abstain from alcohol and drugs.

During the hearing, McDonnell told his attorney, Sean Hinchey, that he pleaded guilty because he did not remember the incident due to injuries he sustained during the accident, which sent him to the hospital.

Assistant Attorney General Melissa Broch prosecuted the case to avoid any potential conflict of interest with the Flathead County County Attorney’s Office.

Hinchey asked the judge to consider allowing McDonnell to serve the seven-day unsuspended portion of his sentence on house arrest out of concern for his client’s safety.

“Mr. McDonnell is retired law enforcement for the Kalispell Police Department and he recognizes several names on the jail roster currently and I think that given that, it would pose a risk to his physical wellbeing in jail,” Hinchey said.

McDonnell, who retired from the Kalispell Police Department in 2015 after an 18-year career, was charged last March with one count of felony criminal endangerment and a misdemeanor count of aggravated driving under the influence.

On Nov. 29, 2020, McDonnell was charged after crashing his truck into another vehicle at an estimated 50 miles per hour on Farm to Market Road in Kalispell. The other vehicle, an unmarked Chrysler 300 owned by the Flathead County Sheriff’s Office, was being driven by Sgt. Logan Shawback, who had been at the same brewery as McDonnell and at least one other law enforcement officer for several hours that evening, according to charging documents.

McDonnell’s blood alcohol concentration was 0.259% at the time of the accident, more than three times the legal limit of 0.08%.

At the time of the accident, Flathead County Sheriff Brian Heino said Shawback was working in an “undercover capacity” and drinking alcohol was a violation of department policy. Shaw was placed on a brief unpaid administrative leave by the department and punitive “major disciplinary” action was taken.

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly indicated that McDonnell received a one-year sentence in the Flathead County Detention Center with no time suspended.