A man accused of stabbing his roommate in Big Sky in November pleaded not guilty Thursday.
Joseph Fairchild, 20, is charged with attempted deliberate homicide for allegedly trying to kill his roommate with a knife in late November 2021. He entered his plea in front of new Gallatin County District Court Judge Andrew Breuner, who was sworn in Monday.
Fairchild’s roommate told law enforcement at the time that he did not remember what happened the night before or how he got his injuries, which court documents described as “significant laceration injuries” on his shoulder and neck.
Fairchild told law enforcement that he and his roommate had been at a party where they both drank heavily and got into a fight, which continued after they arrived home. He called 911 the following morning and law enforcement found the roommate lying on the floor of the apartment. He was flown from the Big Sky Regional Medical Center to Bozeman Deaconess Hospital for surgery on the wounds.
Fairchild appeared with attorneys Herman A. Watson IV and Chuck Watson of Watson Law, who assisted in entering the not guilty plea.
“We maintain that our client is innocent and acted in self defense. It’s tragic that he’ll have to live the rest of his life with the permanency of being accused,” Herman Watson said in a statement to the Chronicle. “Once this case is over, he should have the right to be forgotten, but most people will only remember the accusation.”
Breuner also maintained the $250,000 bail set for Fairchild in justice court and encouraged the Watsons and prosecutor Erin Murphy to collaborate on conditions of release and the bail amount, which the defense attorneys want lowered to $100,000.
The judge emphasized that Fairchild is innocent until proven guilty, but also that bail and probation system is in place for a reason.
“You are presumed innocent of this charge,” Breuner said. “The court has to be mindful, obviously, of the factors (of the case) including the seriousness.”
Breuner was appointed in December by Gov. Greg Gianforte to fill the then-vacant, newly created fourth district court judge seat. The hearing Thursday morning was his first on the bench.
Prior to his appointment, he served as the municipal judge for Belgrade City Court. Before swearing into that city judge position in 2015, Breuner had his own private practice and practiced law in Montana and California.
To remain in the judge’s seat, Breuner will need to run for election in 2022. Until the district court move into a new courts building voters approved in November, Breuner will share the courtrooms of the three other judges.