Robert Nightengale found at fault for stalking Museum Director
By Jim Eshleman
In District Court on Dec. 4, Judge Blair Jones issued
a life time order of protection for Chris Kortlander stemming from incidents
that repeatedly occurred since 2002.
Robert Nightengale, found guilty of civil contempt,
was fined $350. Judge Jones also ordered attorney fees be determined
and made the 2003 restraining order permanent.
This stems from action taken by the Big Horn County
Attorney’s Office last June when Robert Nightengale was arraigned
in Big Horn County District Court for felony stalking charges filed
against him in August 2006 by then County Attorney Calvin Wilson.
Court documents allege that on five separate occasions
Nightengale stalked Kortlander, owner of the Battlefield Museum in Garryowen.
Nightengale, one of the owners of Garryowen's Fort Custer building,
turned himself over to authorities after receiving a letter from the
county attorney's office stating he had violated an order of protection
filed against him by Kortlander. He was released without bond after
appearing in court and pleading not guilty to the charges.
Bad blood between the two men began around 2000 when
Nightengale worked as a volunteer at Custer Battlefield Museum. According
to Kortlander, Nightengale's behavior at the museum had become detrimental
to customers and fellow employees.
About a year after Nightengale began volunteering at
the museum, Kortlander fired him because of his conduct. Nightengale
has denied any misconduct while volunteering at the museum.
After being dismissed, Kortlander said in court testimony,
Nightengale began to harass and threaten him. Meanwhile, a publicity
war erupted between the two business owners.
In a flyer distributed by Nightengale during the 2002
Big Horn County Sheriff’s race in which Kortlander was a candidate,
negative allegations were made against Kortlander. However, in testimony,
Nightengale stated he had no documentation to support his allegations.
Shortly after the November election, which Kortlander
lost, Nightengale became physically aggressive toward him when he asked
Nightengale to leave the Garryowen Convenience Store, which Kortlander
also owns. In court testimony, Nightengale admitted “personal
contact” took place between him and Kortlander. Court documents
also state Nightengale told Kortlander he would have to get a court
order to keep him away.In March 2003, Kortlander got just that, when
the court concluded Nightengale’s conduct warranted the order
Judge Blair Jones voiced concern about the serious
and demeaning nature of the allegations and the willingness to assail
the character of Kortlander in a public forum without any documentation
supporting its accuracy. Subsequently, in his decision Judge Blair Jones
awarded Kortlander the order of protection.
The order of protection states Nightengale is restrained from assaulting, threatening, abusing and harassing Kortlander.
Nightengale must not harass do anything to Kortlander's
employees either directly or indirectly nor threaten to commit acts
of violence against Kortlander and stay away from Kortlander's residence
at the Garryowen Complex. He must stay at least 500 feet away from Kortlander
and avoid contact at public locations. Nightengale must not communicate
directly or indirectly through a third party and must refrain from defaming
Kortlander and his reputation. In spite of the order of protection,
Kortlander alleges five incidents of stalking occurred between August
2004 through September 2005. Kortlander contends these incidents included
defamatory remarks published in The Billings Gazette demeaning his reputation,
violating the 500 feet restriction, and suffering harassment and threats
by Nightengale on two occasions.
After being arraigned in Big Horn County District Court
June 25 on the charges, Nightengale's partner Janice Smith filed a lawsuit
in U.S. district court naming Kortlander, Harold and Stanton and his
wife, Ron Nichols, Jim Court and his wife, Rich Solberg a journalist
for the Big Sky Briefs and Chip and Sandy Watts. Except for Solberg,
all are members of the Custer Battle Preservation Committee. Nightengale
is also a member of the Custer Battlefield Preservation Committee.
The lawsuit contends Smith's civil rights have been
deprived, intentional infliction of emotional distress and seeks an
injunction against the defendants from continuing to harass or deprive
her of her civil rights. The lawsuit also seeks a court order requiring
the preservation committee void a 10 year lease with Kortlander. The
lease is for a sign on preservation committee property advertising Kortlander's
Garryowen restaurant. The lawsuit also contended grave sites on the
property be maintained and Congress accept ownership of the preservation
property. Big Sky Brief journalist Rich Solberg is included in the lawsuit
for a series of articles he wrote regarding the property dispute deemed
misleading by Smith.
This June 25 lawsuit is still pending in U.S. District Court.Return to News