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Man accused of witness tampering after reporting stolen car in Bozeman

Posted at 1:23 PM, Nov 18, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-18 20:40:03-05

A Bozeman man faces charges after allegedly reporting his car as stolen, telling a witness not to talk to the police, and attempting to destroy his cell phone.

Kelly James McManus appeared in Gallatin County Justice Court on Monday, where his bail was set at $5,000.

Court documents say McManus reported his black Audi Q5 as stolen on Saturday, Nov. 9. A Bozeman police officer responded and said McManus was nervous and defensive as the officer asked him standard vehicle theft questions.

McManus reportedly told the officer he arrived to meet a friend at the shopping center at 19th and Oak between 11:50 a.m. and noon. McManus said he left with his friend and returned back to the parking lot around 12:45 p.m., at which time his vehicle was gone.

“It really undermines the whole justice system, as a whole," says Sgt. Travis Munter, Bozeman Police Department. “All the vehicle descriptions of the hit and runs, the stolen vehicle and the traffic complaint all matched this black Audi.”

According to court documents, McManus told the officer he and his friend thought they saw the Audi driving away and followed it, eventually heading to Four Corners. McManus reportedly had a hunch his vehicle was in that area.

The reporting officer said McManus became very nervous when asked to provide the name of his friend and continued to be evasive and defensive, stating several times he thought he should contact his lawyer. McManus reluctantly identified his friend by name but refused to provide his address or phone number, the officer said.

McManus’s friend reportedly contacted police the next day and said he hadn’t seen McManus at all that Saturday, although McManus was supposed to pick him up at 11:30 a.m.

According to court documents, the friend told police that around 1:30 p.m. on Nov. 9, McManus contacted him, saying police “would be trying to talk to him, to avoid this, and not tell the police anything.”

Court documents also say the Audi McManus reported stolen was involved in two hit-and-run incidents and a reckless driver report, all around 11:45 a.m. on Nov. 9. According to his stolen vehicle report, McManus would have still had possession of his vehicle during this time.

“Upon some further investigation, it seems as though that information wasn’t quite accurate," Munter says. "The person that he was supposedly with was not who he was with.”

On Friday, the reporting officer said he contacted McManus by phone to ask about the suspicious circumstances and his friend’s claim that they hadn’t been together that Saturday. McManus allegedly hung up on the officer.

The officer proceeded to McManus’s residence and informed him he was under arrest. McManus reportedly attempted to slam the door but was pulled back outside by the officer and a Gallatin County sheriff’s deputy.

Court documents say McManus dropped his phone and attempted to smash it with his foot.

“In the process of that, he was trying to damage his own cell phone to try and keep us from getting it," Munter says.

The officer said he kicked the phone away to prevent evidence from being destroyed. McManus was arrested and transported to the Gallatin County Detention Center.

Investigations continue into the associated traffic incidents and McManus’s claim that his vehicle was stolen. Further charges are possible in the case.

“It just starts aggravating things down the road if you’re either hiding or making up stories," Munter says. "It just ends up being worse in the end.”

McManus makes his next court appearance on Dec. 6.