A former University of Montana Grizzly basketball player who works as a physical therapist denied federal drug conspiracy charges on Tuesday in Billings.
Appearing before U.S. Magistrate Judge Carolyn Ostby, Kevin R. Criswell pleaded not guilty to a two-count indictment charging him with conspiracy and acquiring hydrocodone and oxycodone by forgery, fraud or subterfuge. The crimes are alleged to have happened from January 2011 to August 2012 in Scobey.
Criswell’s co-defendant, Cale J. Handran, 33, of Scobey, pleaded not guilty on March 25 and was released pending trial before U.S. District Judge Susan Watters.
The indictment was unsealed Tuesday with Criswell’s arraignment but provides no details on the charges.
A prosecutor said earlier the case involves 91 victims.
A former Griz guard, Criswell was a ranked scorer in the Big Sky Conference from the 2003 through 2006 seasons.
Ostby appointed Assistant Federal Defender Steve Babcock to represent Criswell and ordered Criswell to contribute $3,500 to his defense. She gave Babcock several weeks to determine whether Criswell would be able to continue working.
Criswell, who works for Orthopedic Rehab in Kalispell, is a physical therapist, Babcock said.
Criswell told the judge his employer knows of his situation and supports him. “I’ve been upfront with them the whole time,” he said.
Criswell’s status with the state licensing board is uncertain, however, Babcock said. Criswell’s income could change if he is no longer able to work, he said.
Ostby released Criswell on conditions pending trial. If convicted, he faces a maximum of four years in prison and a possible $250,000 fine.
Criswell appeared in court dressed in street clothes but had his hands cuffed to a belly chain.
Assistant Federal Defender Steve Babcock said later that Criswell had turned himself into the U.S Marshals Service in Billings on Tuesday morning and was held in custody in the courthouse. He did not know the circumstances of Criswell’s surrender.
Ostby, who asked how Criswell came into custody, admonished the U.S. Attorney’s Office for not serving an arrest warrant it sought and that she had issued.
The government asked for arrest warrants for the defendants on March 20 and one was served on Handran, Ostby said.
Someone “for some reason,” the judge said, decided to not to serve the warrant on Criswell.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Brendan McCarthy responded that there was some discussion that Criswell would turn himself in.
“Who else do we allow to do that?” Ostby asked. An arrest warrant “isn’t a suggestion you can alter. No one but the court has the authority to alter that,” she said.