Bozeman man pleads not guilty to helping escapee


BOZEMAN, Mont. - Andrew Kranker is one of five people charged with helping Kevin Briggs in the hours after Briggs walked out of the Law and Justice Center in Bozeman. We have covered this story since the morning of February 1.

Briggs was a suspect in an early morning assault. Surveillance video captured Briggs walking out of the front door of the Law and Justice Center later that morning.

He managed to avoid custody for three weeks. Investigators followed leads from Missoula and as far south as San Francisco.

U.S. Marshals finally arrested Kevin Briggs in Portland, Oregon.  Now Briggs faces multiple felonies, from attempted sexual intercourse without consent to assault on a peace officer.

Monday afternoon 20-year-old Kranker appeared in District Court. Prosecutors say Kranker is one of the residents of an apartment Kevin Briggs reportedly fled to after escaping police.

At the time of Briggs escape, Kranker lived just blocks away from the Law and Justice Center. Court documents go on to say Briggs laid low in Kranker's apartment for 6 hours, while police scoured Bozeman looking for him.

They also detail that Kranker admitted to throwing away the belt that police used to restrain Kevin Briggs. Marty Lambert spoke to us briefly about the situation on Monday.

"It is alleged that Kranker threw away the belly belt," said Lambert.

Kranker faces two felony charges -- tampering with evidence, and obstructing justice. Monday in court he pleaded not guilty to those charges.

"My client was the one who was unfortunate enough to happen to live nearby," said Al Avignone, Kranker's attorney.  

Avignone spoke with us after the hearing.

"Mr. Briggs happened to apparently know someone that was staying at my client's apartment, and my client was asleep, minding his own business, when Mr. Briggs showed up at my client's home uninvited, unannounced," said Avignone.

Court documents allege Kranker played a bigger role, including a reported admission to officers that he threw away the belt police used to restrain Briggs. We asked Avigonone about the details outlined in the document.

"At this point in time I'll need to take a look at the evidence to see what they are talking about. I don't have enough information at this time to respond to that allegation," said Avignone.

Kranker was released on his own recognizance and is not expected back in court until June. If convicted he faces a maximum of 10 years in prison for each offense.

More of Briggs' alleged accomplices are scheduled to appear in Gallatin County District Court this week. We will continue to follow those cases and keep you updated.

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