Suspect in Billings home invasion appears on federal drug charges

2014-06-10T15:30:00Z 2014-08-12T14:10:05Z Suspect in Billings home invasion appears on federal drug chargesBy CLAIR JOHNSON The Billings Gazette

A suspect who was shot during a Billings home invasion in May appeared on federal drug and firearms charges in Great Falls this week.

Christopher James Michelotti, 30, of Great Falls, pleaded not guilty to four counts in an indictment that was unsealed with his arraignment late Monday afternoon in Great Falls.

Officers arrested Michelotti in late May near Havre after a vehicle chase with law enforcement agencies and booked him into the Cascade County Detention Facility in Great Falls. He had been wanted by Yellowstone County on aggravated burglary charges and by federal authorities.

Michelotti’s appearance in federal court was delayed because he underwent surgery on June 3 for injuries, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Jessica Betley of Great Falls in court records.

Betley did not identify Michelotti’s injuries but said in a status report to the court that medical care was a legitimate delay for an initial appearance.

Michelotti was shot in the leg on May 11 by the occupant of a Billings South Side home after Michelotti and another suspect, Danny Jo Lira, 37, allegedly forced their way into the residence.

Michelotti, who at the time had not been charged with any crimes, was taken to Billings Clinic. It was unclear whether he was released or left the hospital on his own, but law enforcement began actively searching for him about four days later when a warrant was issued.

The indictment accuses Michelotti and a co-defendant, Dustin Jay Steele, 31, of Great Falls, of conspiring to distribute methamphetamine in Great Falls and elsewhere from about June 2013 until at least Aug. 20, 2013. Michelotti also faces charges of possessing meth with intent to distribute, possessing and brandishing a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking and possessing a stolen firearm, a .45-caliber revolver.

Steele, who pleaded not guilty on April 24, is charged with a total of six counts.

If convicted, Michelotti faces a mandatory minimum of five years to 40 years on the conspiracy count and a mandatory minimum of seven years consecutive to any other sentence on the brandishing count.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Keith Strong ordered Michelotti to remain in custody pending a detention hearing request.

In Yellowstone County, Deputy County Attorney Ed Zink said on Tuesday the state will prosecute Michelotti on aggravated burglary charges when the federal case is finished.

Copyright 2014 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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