Public nuisance trial held

 

Judge Leroy Not Afraid found Rob Shipley guilty of public nuisance Monday in Miles City’s City Court for the condition of his yard at 603 S. Fourth St. 

In testimony during the bench trial, several neighbors or nearby property owners said that Shipley’s front yard has “junk vehicles,” wood, waste wood, card board, boxes, bricks, concrete, a barrel and more.

Shipley told the judge what was on his front law is “stuff. It’s not junk. It’s not clutter.” He also noted that some of the material is to build a fence.

Not Afraid is a Justice of the Peace in Big Horn County. Shipley represented himself, and Deputy City Attorney Jeff Noble was the prosecutor for the city.

Shipley was sentenced to 90 days in jail and fined $500. The judge suspended the jail time and $300 on the condition that Shipley clean his yard in 30 days. If he fails to do so, or fails to do it according to Mayor Butch Grenz’s satisfaction, Not Afraid said, “I guarantee you, Mr. Shipley, that you will serve jail time and you will be billed at that time (for the city crews doing the work), if you are found in violation.”

Shipley had to pay the $200 before he left court Monday.

He told the judge, “I absolutely will comply.”

When he announced the verdict, Not Afraid said, “I don’t want to, on a personal level, demean anyone. I am nobody’s judge personally. Yet the law was written to protect others ... Mr. Shipley may say, ‘I have the right to do, what I want to do, on my property.’ Personal responsibility would say we are accountable to society to act accordingly to the law. Now it would be incorrect for Mr. Shipley to say he has a right to hurt others on his own property. I don’t agree with that. I believe we have the personal responsibility to live in this country to adhere to the laws that have been passed by the municipalities that we decide to live in.”

The judge said that before the trial, he received “a barrage of motions” from Shipley. 

Not Afraid said he read all the motions and the city responses to those motions and stated, “The motions are summarily denied. ... Either they are not timely or they have no bearing on this matter in that they don’t hold water legally or they are not properly argued in their proper form.”

During the four-hour trial, Miles City Police Chief Doug Colombik and three of his officers were called to testify. 

Shipley did ask Colombik if the city has ever had a signed complaint about his property in the last seven years. 

Colombik said he has had people talk to him about the property, but no one has signed a complaint.

On May 30, the police gave Shipley notice that he was to clean up the property.

On June 10 he was cited because he had made “no effort” to clean up the yard, Colombik said.

During Monday’s trial, residents and people who own rental property in Shipley’s neighborhood testified. Most commented on concerns they have with children wandering on the property and getting hurt.

Shipley said no one has gotten hurt on his property in the past.

Several times Not Afraid stopped Shipley from making statements when he was supposed to be asking witnesses questions. 

At one point he warned Shipley that he was in danger of being found in contempt of court for arguing with a witness or making statements when he should be asking questions.

Contempt of court could result in a fine of up to $500, a $35 surcharge and 30 days in jail. Then, nearly 20 minutes, later Not Afraid called Shipley to come stand before him and explain why he shouldn’t be found in contempt.

“I apologize, Your Honor, there was no disrespect intended,” Shipley said. “Please don’t put me in jail. I mean no disrespect to you. Please don’t put me in jail.”

The judge did not find Shipley in contempt of court.