An employee of a Sidney grocery store was arrested on Feb. 3, 2020 and charged with theft. The arrest led to additional charges for alleged criminal possession of methamphetamine.
The arresting Sidney Police Department officer, after handcuffing the employee and reading him his Miranda rights, noticed a “small clear jewelry bag” in the suspect’s pocket, which the officer seized as evidence.
The officer transported the suspect to the Richland County Detention Center, “where he was turned over to Detention Staff,” according to a court affidavit filed by Janet Christoffersen, acting Richland County attorney.
Aaron Robert Fields was later charged with Criminal Possession of Dangerous Drugs, methamphetamine, a felony. He was also charged with misdemeanor theft for allegedly stealing $20 from the cash register at the store where he was employed.
Christoffersen, in her court affidavit and based on investigation reports from the Sidney Police Department, stated that Fields “was suspected of stealing $20–$25 from his till at the deli counter” where he worked on Feb. 3, 2020.
Sidney Police Officer James Fletcher was informed that “the manager of Reese & Rays IGA, wished for an officer to respond to view security camera footage” after determining money was missing from the cash register where Fields was stationed.
Fletcher stated he met with the store manager in her office and reviewed security camera footage. The manager advised the officer “that an employee, identified as Aaron Robert Fields, was suspected of stealing” cash from the till.
After “another employee with book keeping told Aaron that the till was short,” the suspect allegedly “returned with a $20 bill and said he found it near the register,” according to the court affidavit.
The Sidney Police officer stated he viewed the security footage, which showed the suspect “placing cash that he was holding in his hand to a hidden area near a garbage can under the till.”
“Roughly 2 minutes later Aaron returned to the same location and retrieved the money,” the officer continued, noting that the suspect reportedly then handed money to bookkeeping employees.
“It appeared that Aaron quickly came up with this plan when confronted about his till being short to make it appear as if the money was not stolen, but rather mislaid,” the police officer stated in his report.
After reviewing video footage with the Sidney police officer, the store manager filed charges against the suspect and signed a crime report.
“She advised that Aaron’s employment was going to be terminated and wished for him to be permanently trespassed from the store,” the officer stated.
Officer Fletcher reported he met with Aaron and advised him of his Miranda rights, which stipulate he has the option not to speak to the police without an attorney present.
“He told me that he arrived at work and noticed the $20 bill near the garbage can under the till when he was preparing his workstation,” Officer Fletcher stated. “I told Aaron that everything was on camera and that I had already watched it and asked him to be honest.”
The suspect changed his story, according to Officer Fletcher, “and admitted to taking $20 for supplies for the Super Bowl. He stated that he planned to return it the same day, but forgot to do so.”
The police officer then informed the suspect that he was going to be charged with theft, booked and released at the Richland County Detention Center.
Officer Fletcher stated he performed a search after handcuffing the suspect and escorting him to his patrol vehicle.
During the search incident and arrest, Officer Fletcher stated, “I located a small clear jewelry bag in his front right pocket. The baggie contained a white residue consistent with methamphetamine. Aaron claimed that he found the bag and was going to throw it away.”
After seizing the bag and transporting the suspect to the county Detention Center, the bag was handed over to staff for analysis. It was processed as evidence and tested presumptive positive for methamphetamine, according to the court affidavit.
Fields was charged with theft, a first offense, and felony criminal possession of methamphetamine. He is suspected of possessing “a Schedule II Dangerous Drug, on his person, within the City of Sidney, Richland County, Montana.”
Fields made an appearance in the Montana 7th Judicial District Court, Richland County on Feb. 24, 2020. Bond was set at $10,000.
District Court Judge Katherine M. Bidegaray set bail conditions, including maintaining full-time employment or enrolling full-time in school and attending regularly; maintaining weekly contact with an attorney or the Richland County Sheriff; restrictions from possessing a firearm or other dangerous weapon; and restrictions from using or possessing alcohol or other controlled substances without a legal prescription, or entering an establishment where alcohol is “the chief item of sale.”
An Omnibus Hearing for Fields was scheduled for March 9, 2020, with a Status Hearing set for June 22 and a trial date of Aug. 1, 2020.