Mary Ann McCulley takes the stand

Mary Ann McCulley takes the stand at her trial Feb. 27, 2013, in Judge Mike Salvagni's courtroom in Bozeman.

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BUTTE – A federal judge chose to give a Kentucky woman a longer prison sentence than recommended after concluding that her impersonation of a federal officer and threatening behavior showed her to be a public risk.

U.S. District Judge Sam. E. Haddon sentenced Mary Ann McCulley, 54, to one year in federal prison and one year of probation for impersonating a federal officer.

Haddon said sentencing guidelines would give McCulley up to six months of prison time, but he had already informed the attorneys that he was considering exceeding those guidelines. The maximum penalty is three years.

“It is imperative that the court takes into account the bizarre behavior by the defendant,” Haddon said. “It has been suggested that she took the law into her own hands and the record and her own words today shows she did. It is no pleasure to the court that I conclude that you are capable of erratic and threatening behavior.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy Racicot asked Haddon for a lengthy period of probation so the probation office could “ensure that she respects the law.”

Haddon denied a request that McCulley be released on her own recognizance until she reported to prison. Haddon said her behavior indicated that she was a flight risk and a possible threat to the public.

This was just the most recent court appearance for McCulley, who has been involved in both civil and criminal cases in Gallatin County District Court. Circumstances connected with those two cases led to this federal charge.

McCulley was charged last May with three federal felonies: false impersonation of an officer, interstate communication of a threat, and mail theft. The last two charges were dropped in a plea agreement negotiated in October.

McCulley was involved in a six-year legal battle over a mortgage loan with a Bozeman bank. She said she was issued a commercial loan instead of a residential loan, which kept her from being able to refinance.

A Gallatin County district judge ruled against McCulley in 2012. She appealed to the Montana Supreme Court, which dismissed claims against a title company but remanded the case against the bank to the lower court.

During the legal negotiations, McCulley brought a gun to a mediation meeting with bank attorneys and was arrested and charged with felony assault. She was convicted of a lesser misdemeanor charge after a jury trial.

Around the same time, it was found that an email was sent from McCulley's account to a person connected with the bank, which threatened the man and his family, according to court documents.

In April 2012, McCulley assumed the identity of a federal officer to interview a person involved with the bank case and she stole the postal mail of two other people, according to court records.

McCulley has said her email account was hacked and that she didn't write the email.

In court Friday, McCulley said she conducted the interview because she thought she was working to solve a crime perpetrated against her, not to commit a crime.

“I was suffering from legal abuse syndrome because of the civil trial. I believe a certain thing happens to a person when they are denied justice,” McCulley said.

This February, McCulley won her case against U.S. Bank and was awarded $6 million by a jury.

McCulley's sentencing for this federal case was also originally scheduled for February but was delayed until Friday.

McCulley's attorney Mayo Ashley suggested that new evidence had come to light in that civil trial that hadn't been included in McCulley's presentencing report compiled last fall for the federal case.

Presentencing reports review all the pertinent details of a case, including mental and physical evaluations of a defendant.

Ashley said the new evidence gave the judge leeway to void the plea agreement and either order a jury trial or dismiss the case completely.

Haddon assured Ashley that he had reviewed the few details from the civil case that related to McCulley's impersonation of an officer, and none altered the details of the presentencing report or the plea agreement.

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