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Montana sheriff charged with domestic assault

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Bob Edwards (LCDC booking photo) Bob Edwards (LCDC booking photo)
Bob Edwards (MTN News) Bob Edwards (MTN News)
GREAT FALLS -

Cascade County Sheriff Bob Edwards has been cited for misdemeanor partner-family member assault in Helena.

The incident happened on Thursday evening at the Radisson Colonial Hotel just before 5:30 p.m.

According to the citation, Edwards is accused of pushing his intimate partner into a T.V. stand causing injury.

Helena City Police responded to the call.

The city's daily Calls for Service record indicated that six officers responded.

Edwards went before Judge Robert Wood Thursday night for his initial hearing and pleaded not guilty.

Edwards was seen by the judge at the detention center outside of business hours, at the request of Helena police and in consultation with City Attorney Thomas Jodoin.

Officers were concerned for Edwards' safety in the over-crowded jail.

During a brief press conference late Friday morning, Cascade County Undersheriff John Stevens said that law enforcement operations will continue as normal.

Stevens said Edwards is still the Sheriff, but it is Stevens' job as second-in-command to make sure all law enforcement operations continue, and the level of service remains the same. 

Cascade County Commissioner Joe Briggs said that Edwards can not be placed on administrative leave as is often the case with law enforcement officers who are accused of crimes because he is an elected official.

"Elected officials under the law are different than a normal employee; there is no way to suspend an elected sheriff," he said.

“Sheriff Edwards was released last night and he’s currently in Great Falls right now. He has retained counsel," said Briggs.

The next hearing in the case will be in Helena Municipal Court on July 19, where Edwards can ask for either a judge or a jury trial.

If convicted of the misdemeanor charge, Edwards could face up to a $1,000 fine, and a maximum sentence of one year in prison.

He would also spend at least 24 hours in jail, be ordered to undergo mental health counseling, and be ordered into misdemeanor probation.

Undersheriff Stevens said the public should expect to hear from Sheriff Edwards on Monday. 

Briggs said their biggest concern is making sure the deputies and Sheriff's Office staff are not affected by the actions of an individual.

"The actions that he is charged with are not an action of the Sheriff, they are the action of individual who holds that office at the moment," Briggs said. 

Briggs said they can not ask Edwards to resign from his position, nor place him on administrative leave; that's a decision Edwards would have to make himself.

"If the Sheriff were to resign from office, as with Judge John Parker from County Attorney, the commissioners will appoint his successor. His successor would fill out the term until the election in 2018," Briggs said. 

Sheriff Edwards is a Great Falls native and a 25-year veteran of the Cascade County Sheriff's Office.

Edwards was re-elected to a second term as Sheriff in 2014 and is up for re-election in 2018.

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