Naijiel Hale

Nijiel Hale

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Two Montana State football players have been arrested on charges accusing them of dealing prescription drugs in Bozeman.

Naijiel Hale, 21, and Darren Gardenhire, 20, were arrested Wednesday.

Hale is charged with two counts of felony distribution of dangerous drugs and a misdemeanor count of possession of dangerous drugs.

Gardenhire is facing one charge of felony distribution of dangerous drugs.

A third Montana State student, 20-year-old Christopher Flanagan, was also arrested Wednesday on allegations that he was dealing Xanax. He is charged with felony counts of possession with intent to distribute dangerous drugs and possession of property subject to criminal forfeiture.

Bail for Hale was set at $25,000, while bails for Gardenhire and Flanagan were set at $20,000. Judge Rick West ordered the amounts during an appearance in Gallatin County Justice Court on Thursday morning.

MSU announced Thursday morning that Hale and Gardenhire had been suspended from the Bobcats indefinitely. Head coach Jeff Choate did not comment on the suspensions.

According to charging documents:

In February, a confidential informant with the Missouri River Drug Task Force set up a buy of Xanax, a prescription anxiety medication, from Hale.

However, just before the informant was to meet with Hale, Hale instructed the informant to meet with his “brother” instead.

The informant then met with Gardenhire and purchased Xanax from him at an apartment close to MSU’s campus, all while drug task force investigators watched.

Investigators say they were able to identify Gardenhire through his vehicle registration and through comparing photos taken on scene with MSU football photos.

During an interview with investigators, Gardenhire said that his roommate, Hale, was dealing Xanax, but he was not.

In a second incident in February, Hale arranged another deal for multiple Xanax pills at his home.

Investigators say that Hale was present at that deal, but did not actually hand the Xanax to the drug task force operative. He had another person deliver the drugs.

Investigators served a search warrant Wednesday at Hale and Gardenhire’s residence on Emily Drive and found a small amount of marijuana.

Wednesday morning, drug task force investigators served a search warrant at Flanagan’s 16th Avenue residence and found 355 Xanax pills, approximately 19 grams of mushrooms, LSD, a digital scale and $315 in cash.

Flanagan reportedly admitted that he was dealing Xanax in large quantities to people in Bozeman.

Hale, from Bellflower, California, started two games as a freshman at Washington in 2014 and appeared in 14 before being kicked off the team.

He did not play football in 2015 and arrived at MSU last summer. Hale missed all but two games in 2016 because of injury and appeared in two November games.

{span}Hale is the son of Nathaniel Dwayne Hale, better known as rapper Nate Dogg, who worked with rappers Snoop Dogg, Eminem and Dr. Dre before dying in 2011.{/span}

Gardenhire started several games for Washington in 2015 and played regularly — though in a reduced role — in 2016 before suddenly leaving the team in mid-November.

Shortly after, the Seattle Times reported Gardenhire had “been at odds with UW coaches at least in part because of his refusal to take a drug test.”

Gardenhire enrolled at MSU in January and was not eligible to play this season because of NCAA transfer rules. He had impressed coaches and players alike and had drawn praise for his leadership.

“It’s unbelievable,” first-year secondary coach Mark Orphey said March 27. “I knew the type of guy he was when I first got here, but seeing it first-hand and seeing how he not only cares to get himself better, but he challenges the other corners and safeties. He’s been a great addition.”

Chronicle sports writer Parker Gabriel contributed to this story.

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


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