The case against a former Gallatin County sheriff’s deputy charged with mistreating a teenage inmate was dropped Friday.

Thomas Madsen, 59, had been charged with felony mistreatment of a prisoner by the Montana Attorney General’s Office. However, Gallatin County District Judge Holly Brown dismissed the case.

Charging documents state Madsen is seen on video wrapping his hands around a 17-year-old girl’s neck and shoving her against the wall of an interview room at the Law and Justice Center in Bozeman.

In a motion filed by Madsen’s attorney, Al Avignone, he asked that the case be dismissed because the girl was not by definition a prisoner at the time of the incident.

The girl was brought to the Law and Justice Center in February 2011, seeking assistance from law enforcement to transport the girl to Billings, the motion said.

“(The girl) was free to leave the Law and Justice Center in the custody of her parents,” the motion stated. “(The girl) was given that choice. However, at some point the parents decided they did not want to transport (the girl) because they were concerned for their safety.”

At the time of the incident, the girl hadn’t appeared at a court hearing, she was not in the care of a detention facility and she wasn’t under arrest.

Charging documents didn’t include any facts that identify the girl as a prisoner, making the charge insufficient, the motion argued.

In response, Assistant Attorney General Barbara Harris disagreed, arguing that the girl was wearing a restraint belt around her waist and handcuffs attached to the belt.

Madsen’s interpretation of the word “prisoner” is impermissible and that, using the plain meaning of the word, qualifies the girl as a prisoner, Harris argued.

“(Madsen) is clearly trying to have this court determine an issue that must be decided by a fact finder at trial,” Harris wrote.

But the judge sided with Madsen.

In her order filed Friday, Brown said the allegations contained no factual evidence that supported the girl was a prisoner.

Because of that, Brown wrote, the allegations failed to establish probable cause to charge Madsen.

The case against Madsen, originally filed in March 2011, was dismissed in June after Brown ruled there was a conflict of interest and appearance of impropriety with the Gallatin County Attorney’s Office prosecuting the case.

The attorney general’s office re-filed the case in September.

“I’m quite frankly just ecstatic for my client and his family,” Avignone said Saturday. “It’s been almost two years now since he’s been under the weight of this prosecution. It’s taken a terrible toll on the family. I’m just glad that this weight has been lifted by the judge.”

Whitney Bermes can be reached at or 582-2648. Follow her on Twitter at @wabermes.


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