BUTTE, Mont. — A Minnesota man narrowly avoided a five-year prison sentence in Montana after officials mistook his brother's criminal history for his own.
The proposed sentence for Aduo Omot was part of a deal with prosecutors in which he agreed to plead guilty to felony theft after his arrest for possession of a stolen sport-utility vehicle at a hotel in the community of Rocker in January.
The length of the sentence was based on his history of past felony convictions, The Montana Standard reported .
But a pre-sentencing investigation before the 27-year-old Worthington man's sentencing hearing found the criminal record was really his brother's. Omot had a few prior misdemeanor convictions, but no felonies.
Omot's public defender, Josh Demers, said his client did not recall the past offenses the record attributed to him, but Omot didn't seriously dispute them because he appeared to be confused about the difference between felonies and misdemeanors.
"It's kind of scary that Minnesota screwed up the records like this," Demers said.
District Judge Robert Whelan gave Omot a three-year deferred sentence Wednesday that allows him to return home to Minnesota. Under that sentence, Omot can have his record cleared by meeting the terms of his probation.
Whelan wished Omot good luck.
"This will allow the defendant to become a productive member of society again," Whelan said.
Omot repeatedly said that a woman in Minnesota simply gave him the SUV. He told officials that he was on his way to Seattle to see his family, and he had been staying at the Montana hotel for six days before he was arrested on Jan. 28.
He spent 106 days in the Butte jail after he failed to make a court appearance.
The first records check with prison officials in Minnesota revealed a long list of prior felonies, including some for violent offenses.
Kylee Billteen, who writes pre-sentencing investigations for state corrections officials, checked with Minnesota officials twice more and discovered that the felonies belonged to Omot's brother.