A 20-year-old man who spent nearly 19 months in Yellowstone County jail was awarded a new trial on Thursday, and the case against him could be dismissed.
Casey Don Ehrlick was convicted of rape in October after being held in jail for nearly a year. He remained in the Yellowstone County Detention Facility until about a week ago, when evidence surfaced that his alleged victim may have lied about his guilt.
“This case absolutely deserves a new trial,” District Judge Mary Jane Knisely held. She also set a June 3 hearing to consider a motion to dismiss charges against Ehrlick altogether.
Ehrlick’s mother, Trina Ehrlick, said her son was in lockdown at the jail 23 hours a day because of his sex offender status. Ehrlick himself showed no emotion at the judge’s ruling.
Ehrlick’s attorney, Robert Kelleher, asked for a new trial on the basis of a violation of Brady vs. Maryland, a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that requires the state to provide the defense with exculpatory evidence. He said the defense should have been told that the alleged victim, identified in court as C.H., had made similar allegations against another man.
Knisely did not find that the state acted improperly but still held the new trial was justified.
Kelleher said he had not yet filed a motion to dismiss because he was awaiting certain phone records that he believed would shed further light on the case. He said he just learned Thursday that similar charges against Joseph Raymond Weinreber had been dismissed two weeks ago because of the alleged victim’s admission that she had made up rape allegations.
Weinreber remains in jail on numerous other charges. Bond is set at $125,000.
Deputy County Attorney Brett Linneweber asked the court to note that the state had not intentionally withheld any evidence. Ehrlick’s trial was held Oct. 5-6, and Linneweber did not receive the file against Weinreber until Oct. 20, he said. Charges were not filed against Weinreber until Oct. 29, Linneweber said.
Gretchen Schillinger, a victim-witness coordinator at the Yellowstone County Attorney’ Office, said she could not recall any statement the victim made about the subsequent case until after Ehrlick’s trial was over.
“As far as I know,” Judge Knisely said, “the state is not hiding anything, and I have not made that finding.”
According to a report in the Billings Gazette at the time, Ehrlick was charged in October 2014 with assault with a weapon and sexual intercourse without consent. He was accused of sexually assaulting the alleged victim, a former girlfriend, with a bundle of pencils.
He was convicted in October only of the sexual intercourse without consent charge. According to a news story, trial testimony indicated that the alleged victim has a form of autism that causes her to become easily confused.