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Man squats in deployed service member’s home, sells his things for drugs – gets 15 years

A gavel cracks down. (Airman 1st Class Aspen Reid/U.S. Air Force)
December 17, 2018

A Montana man was sentenced to 15 years in prison last week after stealing from a U.S. service member who was reportedly deployed to Iraq.

Erik Robert Hunt, 39, was sentenced by District Court Judge Ed McLean over numerous charges, including “squatting” in the empty home of a deployed service member, remaining in the home for several weeks, and selling the service member’s possessions, the Montana Standard reported.

Hunt alleged that he came across the home while looking for somewhere “to get warm” while he and his girlfriend were homeless. After breaking in and barricading the front door of the service member’s home, Hunt stayed for two to three weeks.

Hunt proceeded to sell the service member’s possessions, including multiple televisions and tools. It’s not clear how Hunt was discovered in the home, or if he left on his own.

“I was not out to harm a man that served our country,” Hunt said during his court appearance.

McClean described Hunt’s actions as “unconscionable” and criticized him for taking advantage of a service member during his deployment in service to the country.

“I don’t what the answer is, but it’s not the way you’re headed,” McLean told Hunt.

Hunt apologized and blamed drug use for his conduct, vowing he could return to sobriety once again; however, it was not a defense that McClean was willing to buy.

Hunt had reached a plea deal with prosecutors which would’ve sentenced him to five years in prison, in addition to another five years deferred. However, three weeks after he was released from jail while waiting for a hearing on the squatting charges, Hunt carried out a slew of crimes that landed him deeper in hot water.

During Hunt’s crime spree, he stole a truck, numerous items from three different retail stores, and acquired methamphetamine that was in his possession at the time of his arrest

Deputy County Attorney Kelli Fivey said Hunt’s crime spree indicated “he just does not care” about breaking the law or the impact his actions have on victims.

Prosecutors withdrew their earlier plea deal and weighed additional burglary, theft and drug charges against Hunt.

Hunt’s attorneys requested that he serve two simultaneous 10-year sentences, to which McClean rejected. Instead, he decided that Hunt will serve the two sentences back-to-back, but agreed to defer the last five years of the sentence for a total of a 15-year sentence.

Montana’s burglary statute permits up to 20 years imprisonment in a state facility and up to $50,000 in fines.