Great Falls man, Leonard James Hilton sentenced to prison for illegal firearm possession
GREAT FALLS (STL.News) A Great Falls man was sentenced today to one year and one day in prison followed by three years of supervised release on a firearms conviction after law enforcement officers found him slumped over in a running vehicle, under the influence of drugs and with a firearm, Acting U.S. Attorney Leif M. Johnson said.
Leonard James Hilton, 35, pleaded guilty on March 16 to possession of a firearm by an unlawful user of a controlled substance.
Chief U.S. District Judge Brian M. Morris presided. Hilton was detained.
In court documents filed in the case, the government alleged that through out 2019 and 2020, Hilton had numerous interactions with Great Falls law enforcement and had repeatedly acknowledged to police that he was addicted to methamphetamine and heroin. The government further alleged that on April 9, 2020, police responded to a call and found Hilton slumped over the steering wheel of a running car in a motel parking lot. Officers knocked on the window. Hilton was sluggish to respond, but then reached toward the center console where officers saw a pistol in plain view. Officers ordered Hilton out of the vehicle, and as he exited, numerous hypodermic needles fell out of his coat pocket. Hilton told officers he had received the pistol from a friend.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jessica A. Betley prosecuted the case, which was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Great Falls Police Department and the Cascade County Sheriff’s Office.
This case is part of Project Guardian, a Department of Justice initiative launched in the fall of 2019 to reduce gun violence and enforce federal firearms laws. Through Project Guardian, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the District of Montana is working to enhance coordination of its federal, state, tribal and local law enforcement partners in investigating and prosecuting gun crimes. In addition, Project Guardian supports information sharing and taking action when individuals are denied a firearm purchase by the National Instant Criminal Background Check System for mental health reasons or because they are a prohibited person.