‘Natural Man’ arraigned for assault on peace officer

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Ernie Wayne terTelgte at his arraignment on Monday, April 9, 2018. (Paul Sievers/The Western News)

Ernie Wayne terTelgte was arraigned Monday in Montana 19th Judicial District Court on charges of assaulting a peace officer, charges stemming from an incident during his March 22 trial in Eureka on separate charges relating to driving while a license is suspended or revoked and obstructing a peace officer or public servant.

If convicted, terTelgte faces no less than two years and up to 10 years in state prison, with the potential for up to $50,000 in fines.

TerTelgte, who has styled himself as a “natural man” or a “natural living man” and is often referred to on forums and in publications as a “Montana mountain man,” was a defendant in a jury trial in Eureka City Court on March 22.

In an affidavit from Lincoln County Sheriff’s Captain Bo Pitman, Pitman notes that terTelgte is known for considering himself outside the law, particularly in regard to whether he needs a license to drive or fish.

TerTelgte had a number of supporters present at his Eureka trial, some from as far away as Wisconsin, according to Pitman’s affidavit.

Tertelgte had chosen to defend himself, as he has in previous cases of a similar nature.

Local supporters also brought several boxes with items for the trial, the affidavit notes. Items included a modified American flag, though the affidavit does not note the nature of the modification.

During jury selection, Judge Stormy Langston found terTelgte in contempt of court relating to disruptive behavior.

According to the affidavit, Langston dismissed the jury personnel, but permitted terTelgte’s supporters to remain in the courtroom. She then ordered him arrested for contempt and placed in the Lincoln County Jail for five days.

When Eureka Police Officer Clint Heintz attempted to escort terTelgte from the courtroom, terTelgte grabbed the door frame and refused to exit.

At that point, Heintz told terTelgte that he was under arrest and attempted to push him through the doorway, still not handcuffed.

After terTelgte pushed back against Heintz, Heintz took him to the ground, according to the affidavit. TerTelgte got to his knees and grabbed Heintz’s left leg, forcing him to sit back.

According to the affidavit, Eureka Town Attorney Clifton Hayden then assisted Heintz.

During the ongoing struggle, the affidavit alleges that terTelgte grabbed Heintz’s badge, ripped it off of his shirt and threw it across the courtroom.

Video footage of terTelgte being detained by Heintz has audio of him alleging he has done no wrong, with others around him echoing his accusations.

As Heintz attempted to handcuff him, terTelgte said things such as, “this is martial law,” with another voice accusing that “this is slavery” and “we’re being pushed off this land” from off screen.

Hayden at one point tells another man who is shouting accusations to move back from Heintz and terTelgte.

When Heintz asked terTelgte to place his hands behind his back, he responded, “When I comply, I am not establishing a contract.”

After terTelgte was handcuffed and removed, Pitman noted that Heintz’s “name plate was dangling from his uniform and his badge was missing.” Heintz also advised Pitman that his elbow felt sprained.

Prompt Care later confirmed that Heintz’s arm had been injured in the altercation with terTelgte.

In the affidavit, Pitman stated that video posted online of the confrontation had been edited and was “highly critical of Eureka City Court and was a call to action for everyone who supported Ernie.”

Pitman’s affidavit also states that Eureka Town Hall received multiple calls following the incident — mostly from out of state — demanding terTelgte’s release. An additional 20 calls were recorded that night before the message recorder ran out of space.

The affidavit states that the FBI assigned an agent out of Kalispell to investigate any threats related to the incident.

In court Wednesday, terTelgte plead not guilty through his public defender, Liam Gallagher. Aside from noting that his name should not be spelled with all capital letters, as it was typed in court documents, terTelgte spoke little to anyone other than his attorney during his appearance.

The omnibus hearing for terTelgte’s case is scheduled for June 4.

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