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Suspect in attempted high school break-in given three-year sentence

by DERRICK PERKINS
Hagadone News Network | July 5, 2023 1:00 AM

The Whitefish man arrested in January for trying to break into Columbia Falls High School earned a three-year sentence with the state Department of Corrections on June 22.

Nels Edward Williams, 63, had pleaded guilty to felony criminal endangerment in Flathead County District Court on May 9. Prosecutors initially brought Williams up on felony counts of assault on a peace officer and criminal mischief, but amended the charges after striking a plea deal with him earlier this year.

Along with the three-year stint with the Department of Corrections, Judge Robert Allison ordered that Williams pay the Columbia Falls School District $1,660 in restitution. He gave Williams credit for 166 days of time served.

Liam Gallagher, Williams’ attorney, told the court he believed the 63-year-old suffered from recent mental health issues. Still, Williams assisted in his defense, Gallagher said.

“This is a curious case,” Gallagher said, describing Williams as a hard worker in his younger years and only recently having run afoul of the law. “I think there are some obvious mental health issues here.”

Allison agreed and recommended the Department of Corrections screen Williams for any mental health woes.

Williams declined to address the court, saying he could not think of anything to say.

The 63-year-old crossed paths with Columbia Falls Police officers Jan. 6 when authorities responded to a report of an attempted break-in at the high school about 9:31 p.m., court documents said. Officers allegedly found Williams standing outside the building holding a piece of glass.

Ordered to lower the glass, Williams allegedly refused. Officers unsuccessfully used a Taser on him and Williams, who previously threatened to deploy the glass at police, threw it at them, court documents said.

Officers took him into custody after a second attempt with a Taser, according to court documents.