Kayla Montgomery, 31, the stepmother of missing New Hampshire girl Harmony Montgomery, who was 5 years old at the time she disappeared in late 2019, has been offered a plea deal by prosecutors.
As Law&Crime previously reported, the elder Montgomery was arrested in January of this year “pursuant to an arrest warrant for one charge of Welfare Fraud, a class A felony.”
According to state, county and local authorities, Kayla Montgomery continued claiming Harmony Montgomery for purposes of obtaining additional Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, previously known as Food Stamps, for several months after the minor was last seen alive in November or December 2019.
Granite State law enforcement allege Kayla Montgomery unlawfully obtained around $1,500 in federal-state food credits through a period spanning November 30, 2019 and June 2, 2021 “by failing to remove Harmony Montgomery from [her] family account” even though the child was not living with her during the months in question.
The precise contours of the offered plea agreement were not revealed during a brief, less-than-four-minute, dispositional conference held on Thursday morning in the Northern District Court building of the Hillsborough County Superior Court.
A dispositional conference is a limited court appearance where discovery issues and other pre-trial issues–such as the strength of evidence and possibly some limited motions–are sorted out between the state, the criminal defendant’s legal team, and the court. Such conferences are typically understood to be the first times in which the two sides in a criminal case can actually talk to one another on what passes for a level playing field in the U.S. criminal legal system.
“The state has made a plea offer,” Assistant Attorney General Jesse O’Neill said on Thursday. “It was communicated relatively recently.”
The prosecutor said that discovery in the welfare fraud case was “largely complete” but somewhat coextensive with and hinging upon the extant missing person case–noting that there was already roughly 3,500 pages or 70 to 80 “media discs” worth of documents for the defense to look over.
“Obviously part of the defendant’s charge has to do with untruthfulness regarding whether or not the child was in the household, so, while the investigation into the whereabouts of the child is ongoing, the state considers that relevant discovery to give to the defendant in terms of anything learned about the whereabouts of the missing child,” O’Neill said, allowing that more was likely to come.
Defense attorney Paul Garrity agreed with the disposition of the case in response to a question from Judge Amy Messer. He said “we’ve had ongoing discussions even though the offer was just recently extended” and that he had discussed the state’s offer with his client.
“A counter to some extent was made to the state,” the defense attorney added, requesting a 60-day time period before the next status hearing to review those voluminous discovery materials.
Garrity previously asked for a 30-45 day extension, but the judge said she wanted a “realistic time frame” for completion.
“It is a lot of discovery to go through, so I defer to the defense,” O’Neill said, deferring to the defense’s extended request for time to review the documents compiled in the case so far.
Ultimately, Messer set a June 9, 2022 status conference.
Adam Montgomery, 32, was charged earlier this week over a series of unconnected gun thefts. He was previously indicted for hitting his long-missing daughter in the face in July 2019–after allegedly admitting to “bashing her” around the house to another relative.
[images: Harmony Montgomery via New Hampshire State Police; Kayla Montgomery via Manchester Police Department]
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