Mike Chilinski

BOULDER – A Jefferson County man fighting the seizure of his property will get a trial early next year.

Mike Chilinski said the county’s civil suit to take his Jefferson City property – including several mining claims and a home – is unconstitutional.

County Attorney Steven Hadden said since Chilinski was using the property for an illegal marijuana grow operation, the county is entitled to bring civil proceedings forward according to Montana’s civil forfeiture statute.

Chilinski was convicted in 2012 of 91-counts of animal cruelty for running a puppy mill where 139 dogs were seized. Court papers said the dogs were living in appalling conditions, many malnourished or dead. Chilinski was given a 30-year Department of Corrections sentence with 25 years suspended.

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The cruelty case sparked a federal investigation that uncovered more than 100 marijuana plants on Chilinski’s property.

In April of 2013, Chilinski pleaded guilty to one count of Manufacture of Marijuana. He was given an 18-month sentence. When federal prosecutors declined to pursue property forfeiture, the county took up the case.

In 2014, District Judge Loren Tucker ruled, following a bench trial, in favor of forfeiture. Chilinski appealed that ruling to the supreme court saying he was entitled to a jury trial. The high court ruled in favor of Chilinski, remanding the case back to district court.

During a status hearing Wednesday morning in Jefferson County District Court, District Judge Luke Berger told Chilinski a trial will be scheduled in late January or early February of next year.

He’s currently under the supervision of probation and parole.