By CJ Baker, Powell Tribune
A Montana man who traveled to Park County in a stolen truck and then led police on a high-speed chase in another stolen vehicle is headed to prison.
In Park County District Court last week, 27-year-old Garrett Bailey pleaded guilty to a felony count of theft and accepted a five- to seven-year prison sentence for his actions last winter.
The sentence, which was the result of a plea deal, also calls for Bailey to pay more than $7,000 to cover the damage he did to the two stolen vehicles and to repair a Wyoming Highway Patrol vehicle damaged in February’s pursuit.
“I would like to give an apology to the victims for damages caused, any trouble caused, as well as anybody potentially put in danger,” Bailey told District Court Judge Bill Simpson.
Authorities say Bailey arrived in Park County around Feb. 21, driving a 2004 Ford Ranger he’d stolen from Harding County, New Mexico. He told Powell police he’d intended to take the vehicle back to his home in Butte, Montana, but he got stuck in a snowdrift on Wyo. Highway 294 outside Ralston. Bailey abandoned the truck and, a couple days later, stole a 2015 Ford Edge that had been left running in the Blair’s Super Market parking lot.
The owner quickly alerted authorities, who spotted Bailey driving the vehicle outside of Cody. Officers attempted to pull him over on Beacon Hill Road, but Bailey fled, starting a high-speed pursuit that would stretch miles south of Cody on Wyo. Highway 120. According to an affidavit from Trooper Randall Davis, Bailey reached speeds of up to 125 mph on the highway.
Bailey later turned into the Oregon Basin area and Davis “missed the turn and slid off into the borrow ditch and snow, getting the patrol vehicle stuck.” The trooper’s vehicle sustained $3,109 of damage.
Bailey later came racing out of Oregon Basin and attempted to continue his flight, but he was thwarted by a set of spike strips deployed by Park County Sheriff’s Deputy Allen Cooper. Two of the tires deflated and, after driving on rims for a couple miles, Bailey pulled over.
He tried pretending that he wasn’t the driver, stripping down to his long johns and concocting a story in which he’d been kidnapped in Powell by a man in a dark mask. But Powell Police Investigator Chris Wallace didn’t buy it — for one thing, he obtained surveillance footage that showed Bailey stealing the Ford Edge from Blair’s — and Bailey fessed up, charging documents say.
At the time of his arrest, Bailey failed sobriety tests and he told police he’d been drinking and had used both meth and marijuana earlier in the day. A DUI charge, plus two other misdemeanor counts and two additional felonies were dismissed by the Park County Attorney’s Office as part of the deal.
Bailey agreed to plead guilty, but wavered during the Sept. 29 hearing, asking Judge Simpson if he could plead no contest instead. At the judge’s suggestion, Bailey did plead guilty, but without testifying about his actions.
He was also ordered to pay $1,077.91 for the damage caused to the Ford Edge stolen from Blair’s and $2,864.08 to the Harding County, New Mexico, government for the damage he did to their Ford Ranger.
Bailey’s defense attorney, Tim Blatt, said the payment will resolve the New Mexico case.
“They’ve indicated that, pursuant to the action … taken by Park County, they do not plan on filing any charges down in Harding County, New Mexico, and are going to be satisfied with the restitution they received from this particular case,” Blatt said.
Judge Simpson questioned whether any of the victims had already been compensated by their insurance companies, “because we want to make sure that there is no double payment.”
However, Deputy Park County Attorney Jack Hatfield noted the Wyoming Supreme Court has ruled that it’s irrelevant whether a victim has been made whole by their insurer; the court has held multiple times that double payment is an issue for a victim and an insurer to work out, saying in a 2020 ruling that it would be “absurd” for a defendant to owe nothing for the damage they caused. Hatfield did agree, however, that the insurance payments were relevant as to which victim should be paid first.
The judge asked Bailey to pay at least 25% of whatever income he earns in prison to his court fines and then his restitution, though it’s unlikely that income will be significant.
The roughly seven months that Bailey has served in the Park County Detention Center since his Feb. 23 arrest will count toward his prison sentence — and he also will likely receive a reduction for good behavior both in jail and in prison.
The hearing slowed after Bailey asked whether he’d receive a reduction, known as “good time,” for the 219 days he’d spent in custody in Cody. Simpson suggested the judgment and sentence document should include that figure.
“It would be most helpful to have that number,” Simpson said, who expressed frustration that the plea agreement and other details hadn’t been submitted in advance of the hearing. The judge apologized to Bailey about “these loose ends that are coming up.”
However, Hatfield said it’s up to the Department of Corrections to calculate good time, Blatt agreed and the hearing moved on.
As of Wednesday, Bailey remained in the Cody jail, awaiting transport to prison. Simpson said the defendant would likely be assigned to a medium security facility in Newcastle.