Prosecutors have dropped a new case against a Montana prison exoneree and agreed never to refile the charges.
Jimmy Ray Bromgard said the state once again got the wrong guy, while the prosecutor cites only lost contact with the victim as the reason for dismissal.
Bromgard, 50, spent nearly 15 years in prison for a Yellowstone County rape he did not commit. After being exonerated in 2002 and settling with the state in 2008 for $3.5 million, he now lives in Kalispell. Prosecutors identified a new rape suspect through DNA in 2015.
Bromgard was charged with a new felony — criminal endangerment — in October after a Flathead County Sheriff’s deputy identified him as the suspect in a road rage incident.
A group had followed a woman and her passengers after arguing with them at a Kalispell gas station around 3 a.m. one October morning. The woman said the group was driving a blue Chevy Impala and, at one point, made contact with the back of her vehicle.
In June, prosecutors moved to dismiss the case with prejudice, meaning it cannot be refiled.
Bromgard’s defense attorney, Lisa Kauffman, said prosecutors charged the wrong person but would “never admit that.”
“I mean, he just wasn’t involved,” Kauffman said. ”It wasn’t his car. It wasn’t him.”
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Bromgard said he was pulled over after leaving his home with a friend to pick up cigarettes at a gas station. He was driving his blue Chevy Impala, and sheriff’s deputies asked about damage to the front.
He said the damage came from a fence post on his property that his wife had accidentally struck. An investigator with the Office of the Public Defender, Preston Davis, said it was “pretty obvious” that the scuffing on the car matched up with paint marks on the post outside his house. Davis said Bromgard was "in the wrong place at the wrong time."
Bromgard called the case “nonsense.”
“I’m just glad they dropped the charges because I didn’t want to have to go through that again,” he said.
John Donovan, deputy Flathead County attorney, did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Kauffman said she's always had concerns about the criminal justice system and that this case did not change that.
"I do not believe this case is an isolated instance of prosecutors charging people with crimes before they either conduct or complete a sufficient investigation," she wrote.
Jimmy Ray Bromgard is a stay-at-home dad. He fixes cars and inks tattoos in his spare time, and he doesn’t dwell on the past.