Listen to this article here
On Friday, Joshua Leon Hiestand, 41, was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison for making repeated threatening and racist phone calls to a Billings church for two years.
“When Hiestand, a white man, went to a Billings church looking for help, an elderly African American woman who worked there responded with kindness and assistance,” U.S. Attorney Jesse Laslovich said in a statement. “In return and for nearly two years, Hiestand launched a barrage of harassing, hateful and racist calls and voicemails at her and the church. His racist conduct isn’t just abhorrent, it is illegal.”
A stalking charge was dismissed as part of the plea agreement.
Hiestand pled guilty in June for making harassing telephone calls
In a statement to the court, the victim, identified as Jane Doe, said Hiestand’s messages contained racist rants and obscenities. “The first message made me sick. I literally started shaking. What he said really frightened me. I get high anxiety when I listen to those messages,” Jane Doe said.
According to KULR8, in November 2020, Hiestand went to a church in Billings looking for a job and money. Jane Doe, an elderly African American who works at the church, gave him a gift card.
Several days later, Hiestand left a voicemail for Jane Doe and, using a racial epithet, said he would give more money to the church if it did not employ an African American.
The next month, Hiestand reached Jane Doe on the phone and referenced his “white friends” and, again, how he would contribute to the church if it did not employ African Americans.
After three similar calls, the woman called Billings police.
Racist habitual line-stepper sentenced to 18 months
A detective called the number used to leave the messages and spoke to Hiestand. He admitted making the calls and apologized for his behavior, prosecutors said.
He was told to have no further contact with the church, according to NBC Montana.
Three days later, he left a voicemail with the church in which he apologized.
However, over the next 19 months Hiestand called and left a series of voicemails at the church that were at times threatening and racially hostile, prosecutors said. Investigators determined that after January 2021, Hiestand was placing the calls from outside the state of Montana.
In August 2021, Hiestand left another voicemail and, using a racial epithet, told Jane Doe that the “world is going to end because of your Black *** race.”
Hiestand lawyer argues time served over 18 months
U.S. District Judge Susan P. Watters presided. The court also ordered $617 restitution.
Hiestand was arrested in November 2022 in Indiana and has remained in custody since then, according to NBC Montana.
Hiestand’s public defender Gillian Gosch asked for a sentence of time served, arguing her client’s actions were affected by his mental health issues, which have resulted in psychiatric hospitalizations and which appear to be worsened by his use of illegal substances.
The Bureau of Prisons will decide whether Hiestand will receive credit for the 11 months already served in custody.
Hiestand remained in custody in the Yellowstone County jail on Monday.