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Montana Supreme Court Upholds Conviction of Man Who Rammed 4 Police Cars

The Associated Press

HELENA, Mt. - A Butte man sentenced to seven years in prison for ramming four police cars because he was upset that his house was being demolished will not have his conviction overturned based on instructions given jurors.

The Montana Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected Duane Gray's claim, saying he forfeited his right to appeal by failing to object at the time the judge issued jury instructions on the crime of assaulting a police officer.

The unanimous five-judge panel also rebuffed Gray's argument that he had such poor legal advice regarding jury instructions that he deserves a new trial. The evidence of Gray's guilt was so overwhelming that any mistake Gray's attorney may have made could not have affected the outcome, Justice Jim Rice said for the court.

Gray was found guilty of four counts of felony criminal mischief, felony assault on a police officer and misdemeanor resisting arrest. In addition to his prison term, he was ordered to pay more than $9,000 in restitution and designated a violent offender.

In June 2002, Butte city workers were demolishing Gray's house, which he forfeited after pleading guilty to growing 77 marijuana plants in the attic. Gray, who claimed the marijuana was needed for medical purposes, fought to keep the house, attempting at one point to jack it up and pull it away.

He unsuccessfully appealed the forfeiture to the Supreme Court.

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