RM Issue #030521
Lethbridge alderwoman to appear in U.S. court for charges of lying to police
By CAROL HARRINGTON
CNEWS - Mon, May 19, 2003
GREAT FALLS, Mont.(CP) - An Alberta alderwoman is to appear in a Montana court Tuesday to answer to charges of lying to police about her three-day disappearance in the United States.
It will be the first time that Lethbridge Ald. Dar Heatherington appears in public since her mysterious disappearance May 3 in Great Falls, Mont.
After her husband reported her missing, she showed up three days later in Las Vegas, telling police that she was sexually abused by an Alberta man who offered her a drive to California.
Heatherington, 39, has been offered a deal which would require her to seek psychiatric help, stay out of trouble for one year and pay court costs of up to $500 US.
If she accepts the deal, called a deferred prosecution agreement, and abides by the agreed conditions, her misdemeanour charge would be dismissed. Under such an agreement, the accused does not have to enter a plea of innocence or guilt, but it means that she agrees that the state has enough evidence to file the charge.
Kory Larsen, assistant city attorney for Great Falls who drew up the offer, said it's a good deal for Heatherington.
"I'd be surprised if she didn't take it," he said, adding that it's typical of deals given to those who don't have a criminal record.
It's paramount that Heatherington gets psychiatric help, he added.
David Heatherington said last week that his wife is getting medical attention - from both her physician and a psychologist.
Heatherington, a medical training officer, said he believes his wife was sexually abused during her disappearance because he has since seen the bruises on her body.
Since returning to her Lethbridge home, Heatherington has spent most of her time recovering and resting in bed, her husband said.
Heatherington's husband and mother have repeatedly said the alderwoman is eager to explain exactly what happened when she went missing, but for now her Lethbridge lawyer has told her not to talk to the media until the charges are resolved.
Dan Donovan, Heatherington's lawyer in Great Falls, did not return several phone calls.
Heatherington's disappearance has prompted many Lethbridge residents to call for her resignation from council. Some Great Falls residents have said they want Heatherington to pay the $15,000 US cost of the three-day search in their farming community of 60,000 people.
The City of Lethbridge placed an ad in last Friday's Great Falls Tribune, apologizing to its southern neighbour for causing any worry, cost and inconvenience.
Meanwhile, Lethbridge Mayor Bob Tarleck said he intends to propose to council Tuesday a resolution that will require aldermen to get the mayor's permission to travel outside the city on council business.
Tarleck has suggested to Heatherington that she takes a leave of absence from council to get her personal life in order.
Under the provincial municipal act, council does not have authority to remove an alderman from office for a misdemeanour charge.