Montana Crime & Courts

Jan 28, 2014 11:45 AM by Beth Saboe - MTN News

Montana man sent to jail for courtroom contempt

BOZEMAN - A Manhattan man is in jail after a confrontation with a judge on Monday.

Ernie Tertelgte, 52, gained Internet fame in November after challenging a judge in court over a fishing violation.

Tertelgte is accused of fishing without a license, and he appeared in court Monday for a status hearing on the misdemeanor charge.

MTN News was the only media outlet inside the courtroom, but in a surprise move, the judge ruled that cameras would not be allowed and the hearing was over nearly as soon as it started.

The hearing opened with a request by Justice of the Peace Rick West that Tertelgte remove his hat in the courtroom. Tertelgte repeatedly refused and then walked toward the exit, as if he were leaving.

West warned him that he would be held in contempt if he did not remove his hat and return to the front of the courtroom. But Tertelgte did not comply and he was taken into custody. He was then sentenced to 30 days in jail and given a $500 fine.

Outside the courtroom, Tertelgte's supporters were unhappy to learn the hearing was over before most of them were allowed in.

One man, who identified himself only as Joel, said he was there to protest what he called "unlawful government."

"Taking off your hat is not illegal, it's not immoral, it's not unethical, and if the judge makes a law that somebody has to take it off, all that's doing is forcing his will upon a man who has his own alienable rights and it's unjust," he said.

Nearly two dozen people came out in support of Tertelgte, and a nearly equal number of law enforcement officers were on hand.

During his November court appearance, Terteltge argued that the court did not have the authority to charge him, citing "natural law."

"You are trying to create a fictitious, fraudulent action," he said. "I am the living man, protected by natural law."

He then yelled: "Do not tell me to shut up! I am the living, natural man, and my voice will be heard!"

Terteltge then pointed at the flag and said: "That is the Jolly Roger, that thing you call the American flag with the golf fringe around it is the Jolly Roger, and you are acting as one of its privateers!"

When the judge noted that he had pleaded not guilty, Terteltge countered: "I never plead, animals plead, sounds like baaaa, oink oink."

The back and forth exchange continued for a few more moments, and the hearing ended after both the judge and the defendant walked out.

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