By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
A California man was sentenced to nine months in jail this week after pleading guilty to assaulting police officers in September in Yellowstone National Park.
Benjamin J. Bagala, 27, of Santa Rosa, California pleaded guilty and was sentenced for three counts of assaulting, resisting or impeding certain officers or employees and one count of depredation against of the United States.
He appeared via Zoom before U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark L. Carman and was sentenced to nine months in jail, with credit for four days already served. He must surrender on or before March 4.
He was also sentenced to one year of supervised release with special conditions that include a ban from the park. He is also prohibited form using or possessing alcohol, entering into bars, pubs or lounges and was ordered to continue with alcohol treatment as approved by the probation officer.
Bagala was ordered to pay $2,865.42 in restitution and $100 special assessment.
According to U.S. District Court documents, Park Ranger Matthew Chuvarsky was called to Lake Hotel in late September to respond to reports of an intoxicated guest who was “howling” outside the hotel and had approached a security guard in a “threatening manner.”
The guest, later identified as Bagala, was reportedly “stomping around the hotel.”
An affidavit filed in support of Bagala’s charges by Chuvarsky said when Chuvarsky arrived at the hotel, he saw Bagala and noticed two broken plexiglass panels, similar to those used to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
Bagala started walking toward the ranger, the affidavit said, and Chuvarsky noticed he had blood on his hands, arm and face.
The affidavit said the two struggled briefly and when it appeared Bagala was preparing to punch Chuvarsky, the ranger used his taser on Bagala and the man fell to the ground. After a struggle, Bagala was handcuffed.
Because of his injuries and a perceived high level of intoxication, Bagala was moved from a patrol car into an ambulance for transport to a hospital in Livingston, Montana.
While in the ambulance, Bagala removed his seatbelt, began trying to get out of the handcuffs and struggled with one of the park rangers in the ambulance.
The ranger driving the ambulance stopped the vehicle and went to the back to help the other ranger. While he tried to control Bagala, he was kicked twice in the head.
During efforts to administer a sedative to Bagala, he began spitting saliva, blood and mucus on the rangers and a paramedic in the ambulance and spitting into the paramedic’s mouth.
After Bagala was sedated and being taken to the hospital, rangers returned to the Lake Hotel to survey the damage he allegedly caused.
The affidavit said rangers found damage allegedly caused by Bagala worth more than $1,000, including: the two broken plexiglass shields, blood splattered on the floor, walls and ceiling of the hotel lobby, broken plates, a broken door and damaged light fixtures.