A defense attorney from Missoula is on the hook for all the costs of a nine-day trial in Libby after the state district court judge ruled the attorney had intentionally caused delays that led to a mistrial.
Lincoln County District Court Judge Matthew Cuffe issued the order Friday, the ninth and last day of the trial. The defendant, Kip Hartman of Idaho, faces financial and elder exploitation crimes, including conducting insurance transactions without a license, transacting business as an investment advisor without a license, securities fraud, four counts of exploiting the elderly, tampering with witnesses and deceptive practices. The joint prosecution includes the state Commissioner of Securities and Insurance and the Lincoln County Attorney’s Office.
It was not immediately clear if prosecutors will seek another trial after Cuffe’s order. The Commissioner of Securities and Insurance, Troy Downing, and the Lincoln County Attorney, Marcia Boris, issued a joint statement on Saturday.
“We are proud of our team who performed professionally and diligently. We believe the order speaks for itself. Our offices will continue to vigorously advocate to protect Montanans.”
Shandor Badaruddin, Hartman’s defense attorney and the lawyer ordered Friday to pay the costs of the mistrial, did not return an email seeking comment Sunday afternoon.
Prosecutors charged Hartman, 35, in 2019 after a Troy woman told state investigators Hartman had instructed her to sell her father’s annuity, which would have brought in a $2 million inheritance, and to purchase an annuity from him while never having a license in Montana to give such financial advice, according to charging documents.
Investigators found Hartman had done the same for Libby and Troy residents from 2015 to 2019, and did so without the proper licenses, according to coverage of the trial from The Western News. Initial charging documents state Hartman made more than $700,000 through advising one client to purchase one of his annuities.
Hartman’s defense maintained during the trial he had not exploited anyone. The Western News reported Badaruddin, in opening statements, said state investigators had pressured Hartman’s clients to testify against him.
According to his Friday ruling, Cuffe noted “concerning behavior” throughout the nine-day trial from Hartman’s defense attorney such as wasting time with witnesses on facts that were not in dispute, arriving at the hearings without hard copies of exhibits and bringing witnesses into the courtroom after longer periods of time than necessary.
At the end of the eighth day, according to Cuffe’s order, the judge told Badaruddin he had only 15 minutes left for the defense to present its case, but Badaruddin insisted he needed three hours of his client’s testimony. Badaruddin, according to the court filing, said his own trial mismanagement should not affect his client’s right to testify.
Cuffe, the following morning, agreed with Badaruddin’s position and called a mistrial. Badaruddin then urged the judge to instead let him proceed with his client’s testimony, which he now said could be done in 90 minutes, according to the judge’s order. Cuffe declined, and ordered Badaruddin pay the costs of the mistrial, including, but not limited to, rental costs of the facility needed to hold the trial due to COVID-19 precautions, jury costs and the court reporter’s fee, as well as travel expenses, lodging and meals for those who participated in the trial.