Montana man gets 18 months in federal prison for repeated racist phone calls made to a church

Oct 23, 2023, 1:17 PM

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A Montana man has been sentenced to 18 months in federal prison for making repeated threatening and racist phone calls to a Billings church for two years after he went there seeking help and received a gift card from a Black employee, prosecutors said.

Joshua Leon Hiestand, 41, was sentenced Friday, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Montana. Hiestand pleaded guilty in June to making harassing telephone calls. A stalking charge was dismissed as part of the plea agreement.

“When Hiestand, a white man, went to a Billings church looking for help, an elderly African American woman who worked there responded with kindness and assistance,” U.S. Attorney Jesse Laslovich said in a statement. “In return and for nearly two years, Hiestand launched a barrage of harassing, hateful and racist calls and voicemails at her and the church. His racist conduct isn’t just abhorrent, it is illegal.”

Prosecutors alleged Hiestand went to the Presbyterian church in November 2020 seeking help. Five days later, the church received a voicemail in which someone, using a racially derogatory term, said he would give more money to the church if the church did not employ an African American. After three similar calls, the woman called Billings police.

A detective called the number used to leave the messages and spoke to Hiestand, who admitted making the calls and apologized for his behavior, prosecutors said. He was told to have no further contact with the church. Three days later, he left a voicemail with the church in which he apologized, court records said.

However, over the next 19 months Hiestand called and left a series of voicemails at the church that were at times threatening and racially hostile, prosecutors said. Investigators determined that after January 2021, Hiestand was placing the calls from outside the state of Montana.

Hiestand was arrested in November 2022 in Indiana and has remained in custody since then.

Hiestand’s public defender Gillian Gosch asked for a sentence of time served, arguing her client’s actions were affected by his mental health issues, which have resulted in psychiatric hospitalizations and which appear to be worsened by his use of illegal substances.

The Bureau of Prisons will decide whether Hiestand will receive credit for the 11 months he has already been in custody, officials said.

Hiestand remained in custody in the Yellowstone County jail on Monday.

United States News

FILE - Republican presidential candidate and former President Donald Trump speaks to Texas state tr...

Associated Press

Appeals court upholds gag order on Trump in Washington case but narrows restrictions on his speech

A federal appeals court in Washington on Friday largely upheld a gag order on former President Donald Trump in his 2020 election interference case but narrowed the restrictions on his speech.

3 hours ago

FILE - Migrant families wade through shallow waters toward Roma, Texas, March 24, 2021. A federal j...

Associated Press

Federal judge prohibits separating migrant families at US border for 8 years

A federal judge on Friday prohibited the separation of families at the border for purposes of deterring immigration for eight years.

4 hours ago

Associated Press

Indiana secretary of state appeals ruling for US Senate candidate seeking GOP nod

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The Indiana secretary of state is appealing a ruling that a law stipulating voting requirements for a candidate’s party affiliation is unconstitutional in a decision that lifted the hopes of a U.S. Senate hopeful who wants to run as a Republican. The Indiana attorney general’s office filed the notice of appeal Friday […]

5 hours ago

Associated Press

Nashville Police investigation into leak of Covenant School shooter’s writings is inconclusive

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Nashville Police have “exhausted all available investigative avenues” in the hunt for the person who leaked pages from a school shooter’s journals to a conservative commentator, the department announced in an email sent to media late on Friday. The writings are part of an ongoing legal battle over whether they should […]

5 hours ago

Associated Press

Arkansas man sentenced to 5 1/2 years for firebombing police cars during 2020 protests

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — The ringleader of a group who admitted to firebombing several police cars in Arkansas during the 2020 protests over the killing of George Floyd has been sentenced to five and a half years in federal prison, while three of his co-defendants were sentenced to 18 months each. A federal judge […]

6 hours ago

Associated Press

Guest lineups for the Sunday news shows

WASHINGTON (AP) — ABC’s “This Week” — Secretary of State Antony Blinken; former Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo. ___ NBC’s “Meet the Press” — Sens. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, and Chris Murphy, D-Conn. ___ CBS’ “Face the Nation” — Shalanda Young, director of the White House Office of Management and Budget; Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and James […]

7 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

(KTAR News Graphic)...

KTAR launches online holiday auction benefitting Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley

KTAR is teaming up with The Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley for a holiday auction benefitting thousands of Valley kids.


Desert Institute for Spine Care

Desert Institute for Spine Care (DISC) wants to help Valley residents address back, neck issues through awake spine surgery

As the weather begins to change, those with back issues can no longer rely on the dry heat to aid their backs. That's where DISC comes in.


Midwestern University

Midwestern University: innovating Arizona health care education

Midwestern University’s Glendale Campus near Loop 101 and 59th Avenue is an established leader in health care education and one of Arizona’s largest and most valuable health care resources.

Montana man gets 18 months in federal prison for repeated racist phone calls made to a church