A local woman was arrested and charged with felony criminal possession of methamphetamine after a recorded social media conversation was turned in and tipped off the Sidney Police Department.
Rhianon Michelle Hunter of Sidney made an initial appearance in the Montana 7th Judicial District Court, Richland County and is scheduled to return to court for an Omnibus Hearing on April 6, 2020. She is charged with criminal possession of dangerous drugs, methamphetamine, a felony.
Charity McLarty, deputy county attorney for Richland County, filed a court Information document on Feb. 21, 2020, as well as an affidavit, detailing facts in the case.
The case stems from a dispatch call made to the Sidney Police Department from an employee of Richland Opportunity Inc. (ROI) in Richland County. The ROI employee reported a conversation between two other ROI employees “about drugs on the social media application Facebook,” according to the affidavit from McLarty.
A Sidney police officer contacted the ROI employee who reported the conversation, which “had accidentally been recorded on Facebook live.”
The officer later reported, based on his understanding of Facebook Live, that video can be broadcast in real time. The police officer met with the ROI employee and interviewed the person at the Richland County Law & Justice Center (RCLJC).
During the interview, Rhianon Hunter was identified as one of two people recorded during the live Facebook broadcast. Hunter was “an ROI employee who worked at the ‘New Place’; which is an ROI housing apartment complex” in Sidney, according to the court affidavit.
The ROI employee who reported the live social media conversation said she thought it sounded like it might be drug related. The employee reported that Hunter and another person were “talking about cleaning something, crystals and shards, something tasting like chemicals but also sweet,” the affidavit stated.
The video was 10 minutes and 38 seconds long, but was mostly dark, indicating Hunter, who allegedly recorded the conversation, had placed the phone “inside her pocket,” the affidavit stated.
The conversation, which is included verbatim in the affidavit, consists of a verbal exchange purportedly between Hunter and another ROI employee, describing the texture, taste, sweetness and chemical characteristics of what authorities believe to be meth crystals.
“So, um... (whispering) Did you think it like tastes sweet though? Like chemically sweet?” Hunter is alleged to have said during the recorded conversation, according to the court document.
“And like yeah (mumbling) Um (laughing) you’re, like, anytime like it gets black like (mumbling) gets down to that ‘ugh’, that you can’t hardly even suck in, and you’re just like ‘ugh’, that I would just waste and just..[sic] clean it out. Um,” Hunter is alleged to have said on the recording, which continues with several pages of dialogue reportedly between Hunter and another ROI employee about an unidentified substance.
The conversation progresses into a discussion about payment, with the second ROI employee indicating payment funds would be a problem.
At one point, Hunter is alleged to state: “Huh! Yeah. Just be (mumbling) bring back here little bit (mumbling) so I don’t kill somebody.”
The recorded social media “Facebook” conversation ends with Hunter and the other person exchanging friendly goodbyes.
Based on the report from an ROI employee who shared the recorded conversation with the Sidney Police department, officers appeared at a Sidney address where Hunter was believed to be located. Two police officers entered the building, “where they made contact with an adult male.”
They told the man they were looking for “Rhi” (“Rhianon’s nick name”) and were advised she was in a close-by apartment. After locating the suspect, the officers explained they had seen and heard the Facebook recordings.
“It’s bath salts,” she reportedly told the police officers in response to their inquiry about the substance she was alleged to be discussing throughout the recordings.
During their conversation with Hunter, the affidavit stated, “she was making exaggerated head, body, and hand movements” which [an officer] suspected indicated she was “under the influence of a stimulant, specifically methamphetamine.”
During a subsequent search, one of the officers found an “oval pill in Rhianon’s left front pants pocket...which he believed to be a scheduled prescription drug.”
The pill, along with a “plastic bag,” were seized as evidence and brought to the evidence processing room at the RCLJ. The bag, which was swabbed, tested presumptive positive for methamphetamine, and Hunter was charged with possession of a dangerous drug, a felony.
If found guilty, Hunter faces up to five years in state prison and fines not to exceed $5,000.
A trial date is set for August 20, 2020.