John Lesofski

Montana game warden John Lesofski is pictured holding a bighorn sheep skull during the state auction of confiscated wildlife horns and antlers in Great Falls earlier this year.

Tom Kuglin, tom.kuglin@helenair.com

After a Helena realty company obtained an officer caution bulletin naming one of its tenants, a Montana game warden is denying a charge that he misused confidential criminal justice information. 

John Gregory Lesofski of White Sulphur Springs was issued a citation by the Helena Police Department on Oct. 11, alleging a misdemeanor count of disseminating a law enforcement sensitive document to an unauthorized person or entity. The Helena City Attorney’s office charged him on Nov. 15, and after pleading not guilty, he appeared in Helena Municipal Court Wednesday for an omnibus hearing.

The city attorney's office released the police report to the Independent Record in response to a public records request. The heavily redacted document removes references to other people and locations.

According to the document, Helena police received a call from the Montana Department of Justice reporting that the officer caution bulletin had been mailed anonymously to another party. The bulletin, which is marked as law enforcement sensitive, details potential threats against law enforcement, the police report says.

Through their investigation, Helena police learned that Lesofski had informed the Lewis and Clark County Sheriff's Office and a Helena realty office about the threats.  

“John stated he took all that paperwork, including the law enforcement sensitive MATIC document, to (realty company name redacted) to show them some of the things about the individuals that are staying at that residence. John stated he took the MATIC Alert because it had a good picture of (redacted),” the police report says.

The police report alleges that the realty company asked for and was allowed to keep a copy of the documents, at which time it obtained the officer bulletin. The report does not clarify whether Lesofski intended for the bulletin to be copied along with other publicly available documents.  

The report says Lesofski regretted bringing the bulletin to the realty company and was "distraught and shocked" when he was informed that the document was later mailed to a third party. 

Lesofski provided the name of the individual he spoke with, and Helena police later recovered the document from the realty company.

“I advised John that he would be receiving a citation for … disseminating confidential criminal justice information to someone that does (not) have access to see that information for a personal matter,” the police report says. “John stated he understood. John wanted to tell me that there was no malicious intent to disseminate that information and I told John that I believed him.”

Helena City Attorney Thomas Jodoin clarified that Lesofski is not suspected of anonymously mailing the document, and he said no other charges have been filed in the case. Helena police spoke with individuals at the realty company, but it is unclear from the police report whether law enforcement knows who mailed the document. 

Lesofski’s attorney Palmer Hoovestal disputed the characterization of the document as confidential and reiterated his client's motivation in addressing threats to law enforcement.

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“There was nothing improper about Mr. Lesofski’s actions – he provided information that was available to the public,” he said. “He’s a veteran law enforcement officer with a crystal clear record and he never disseminated anything that’s confidential.”

Hoovestal declined to comment on other aspects of the allegations.

The defense has filed a motion to dismiss the charge, which would be ruled on before a potential trial date is set.

Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks spokesman Greg Lemon said the department was notified of the charge and placed Lesofski on non-disciplinary administrative leave as it conducted an internal investigation. The leave has since been lifted and Lesofski will return to work in early 2018, Lemon said, adding that he could not comment further due to employee privacy concerns.

Lesofski has been a Montana game warden for 25 years and as recently as 2015 was nominated for the Game Warden of the Year Excellence Award by the Montana Game Warden Association.

Reporter Tom Kuglin can be reached at 447-4076 @IR_TomKuglin

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