HELENA — A former Helena elementary school teacher has been given a three-year deferred sentence for felony drug possession, stemming from an August traffic stop where authorities found cocaine, LSD, methamphetamine and psilocybin mushrooms in his vehicle.
Eric Lehman, who is married to Democratic state superintendent of public instruction candidate Melissa Romano, pleaded guilty to the charge Friday.
As part of a plea agreement, Lehman pleaded guilty to possession of the psilocybin mushrooms. He also must continue drug treatment activities, make a $500 contribution to the Missouri River Drug Task Force, complete 40 hours of community service, pay court fees and costs and obtain a chemical-dependency evaluation.
In a prepared statement to the Helena District Court, Lehman said he was humbled by his addiction but grateful for what had happened after the traffic stop and charges.
“I am grateful for the traffic stop that catapulted me on this journey toward recovery and I am grateful that I was given the opportunity to attend treatment at Rocky Mountain Treatment Center in Great Falls,” he said.
Lehman resigned his teaching post at Hawthorne Elementary School in the wake of the traffic stop, effective Nov. 1.
A Montana Highway Patrolman stopped Lehman on the west side of Helena on Aug. 31, after seeing him nearly run a stoplight and later discovering that Lehman’s license plates weren’t properly assigned to a vehicle.
The patrolman smelled marijuana in the car and asked if he could search the vehicle, the charges said. After Lehman refused the request, the officer impounded the vehicle and obtained a search warrant.
The charges said the search turned up a bag in the car that contained psilocybin mushrooms, one tab of LSD, two grams of methamphetamine and one gram of cocaine.
Lewis and Clark County prosecutors didn’t file the felony drug charge until Dec. 2, and said the delay was because they were working out a plea agreement with Lehman.
Lehman said he completed his initial treatment Oct. 4 and has continued to attend Narcotics and Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and counseling sessions.
In a statement when the charges were filed, Romano said that it's been "a very difficult time for our family," but that Lehman is "taking responsibility for his actions, seeking treatment and making amends."
"Families should stick together through thick and thin in order to heal, and ours is no different," she said.