A Mackay man, halfway into a four-year probationary term for felony battery of a police officer, will have to remain on probation for at least another six months and pay his fines before being considered for early release, Judge Stevan Thompson decided.

Jeremiah Lee Johnston, born in 1975, completed drug court in Butte County and is seeking early discharge from probation, public defender Jeffrey Kunz told the judge at a Feb. 20 court proceeding.

Johnston pleaded guilty to battery on a police officer after being charged with struggling with a Custer County sheriff’s deputy and taking the deputy’s stun gun. The 2016 case arose out of a domestic dispute after Johnston had been drinking. Johnston became belligerent with his partner and daughter.

Deputy Crissi Gilchrist responded to the dispute, and Johnston resisted arrest, getting into a pushing match with his daughter and Gilchrist. He knocked the stun gun down when Gilchrist tried to use it.

Prosecuting Attorney Justin Oleson congratulated Johnston for completing drug court. But, Oleson said, he thinks Johnston still needs regular supervision. Two years of probation is sufficient in Johnston’s case, Kunz said. He agreed with the prosecutor that Johnston should stay on probation until he’s paid off his fines.

Johnston told the judge that drug court had given him the skills he needs to become an upstanding citizen and to make short- and long-term plans. His life has changed. He was sick with alcoholism and realizes he can never be cured, but he can prevent future problems, he said. Johnston said he’s not at the end of any program but has started a new life where he can be sober, go to Alcoholics Anonymous and “teach other alcoholics what I did. It’s not a bad thing to ask for help.” Johnston said he has a better relationship with his family and has new friends who support his sobriety.

“I appreciate your comments and attitude,” Thompson said. But, he pointed out, drug court officials have recognized a tendency for defendants in drug cases to relapse

“In a felony case, two years of probation is not a long time. I want you on probation longer, until you pay your fines. Come back in six months. If there are no problems, then I will discharge you from probation if your court costs and fines are paid off,” Judge Thompson said. The judge ordered 90 more days of formal, supervised probation, plus 90 days of informal probation.

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