A Montana woman who was facing murder charges in the shooting death of her ex-husband has been permanently cleared of the charge by a judge overseeing the case, putting an end to attempts by prosecutors to put her behind bars despite her claims of self-defense.
It was last October when Rachel Bellesen shot and killed Jacob Glace, who had previously plead guilty to assaulting her. Bellesen cooperated with authorities, telling them that she was was forced to act in self-defense when her Glace showed up at a local swimming hole and tried to rape her.
Bellesen and her current husband, Corey Bellesen, called police shortly thereafter to report what had happened, and she was taken to a local hospital where police documented her injuries. The county attorney filed charges against her the next day.
Glace was also convicted of domestic violence in 2010, when he pushed his new wife to the ground and choked her, according to a police report, and was charged with the same crime in May 2020 over a dispute with another partner. In April 2020, he was charged with assault for allegedly hitting his girlfriend in the face, smashing a chair, and slamming her into a wall.
Karla Fischer, an attorney and consultant who has worked on more than 200 domestic violence-related self-defense cases, previously told The Daily Beast she had only heard of two such cases in which the charges were dismissed at all. Dropping them with prejudice, she said, was almost unheard of. But she praised the work of Bellesen’s advocates, saying they were “right to push for this to truly be over for this woman.”
As The Daily Beast reports, last month prosecutors tried to drop the murder charge against Bellesen, but wanted to reserve the right to re-filed the charges in the future. This week, however, a Sanders County judge ruled that the charges should be dismissed without prejudice, meaning that prosecutors can no longer file charges against Bellesen in Glace’s death.
I think this is the appropriate outcome, but it does serve to highlight the fact that, just because you act in self-defense, it’s still going to be up to prosecutors to decide whether or not they believe you. Police and prosecutors will review every case that comes before them, and may very well end up filing charges even if you know that you were only acting to protect yourself and others. We just saw a self-defense shooting in Ohio go to a jury trial, though thankfully the gun owner was acquitted of the criminal charges he was facing.
A Franklin County jury decided Friday that a 32-year-old man with a concealed-carry permit was acting in self defense when he fatally shot another man during a confrontation at a Far East Side gas station.
Nehemiah Martin of the Far East Side was acquitted of murder charges in the Jan. 22 shooting death of 31-year-old Brandon Clark.
The jury deliberated for less than three hours before returning the not-guilty verdict to Franklin County Common Pleas Judge Colleen O’Donnell.
Although murder cases rarely go to trial in less than a year even without the Covid-19 pandemic, Martin refused to waive his statutory right to a speedy trial while in jail on a $1 million bond, which meant prosecutors had to bring the case to trial within 90 days.
In that case Martin had arranged to meet his ex-wife at a gas station in order to pick up his twin sons. When he arrived, however, Clark, who was dating his ex-wife, attacked him, beating him so severely that Martin believed his life was in danger. He drew his legally-carried firearm and fired one shot, striking Clark in the abdomen. Like Bellesen, Martin cooperated with police, but was still charged with murder.
Gun control activists like to pretend that anyone who shoots someone can just claim self-defense and walk away, even though the Bellesen and Martin cases prove otherwise. The reality is that even in clear-cut cases of self-defense it’s entirely possible that police and prosecutors can decide to bring criminal charges, and self-defense claims don’t amount to a get-out-of-jail-free card, no matter how often anti-gun groups claim otherwise.