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Contempt charges, case dismissed against Glasgow couple


Contempt charges, case dismissed against Glasgow couple

Feb 22, 2024 | 5:54 pm ET
By Darrell Ehrlick
Contempt charges, case dismissed against Glasgow couple
Photo illustration by Getty Images.

Less than 24 hours before a Glasgow couple was scheduled in a Valley County District Court on contempt charges, the entire case was dropped by the State of Montana because the 14-year-old youth at the center of it was safe in the custody of her mother, in Canada.

Todd and Krista Kolstad of Glasgow went viral when they claimed that their daughter had been forcibly taken by Montana’s Child and Family Services and sent for psychiatric treatment, including gender-affirming care, without their permission. Shortly after posting a video telling their story to social media, a judge issued an injunction or gag-order, prohibiting them from discussing the case, and ordering to them to remove the video or face criminal contempt charges.

The couple continued to speak in the media, defying the order.

That prompted national media attention and two emergency appeals to the Montana Supreme Court, and the Kolstads wondered aloud if they would be jailed for refusing to comply with district court judge Yvonne Laird’s order.

On Tuesday afternoon, less than 24 hours before their scheduled court appearance on contempt charges, Laird dismissed the charges, based upon the Valley County Attorney’s recommendation that since the youth is no longer in an emergency situation, the case — and by extension, the contempt charges — are moot.

After the case was dismissed, the Kolstads said that Laird had “sent their sex-confused daughter to Canada to punish her father for a civil suit.”

That civil suit is an ongoing court case in federal district court in which Todd Kolstad argues the Glasgow Police Department used excessive force in violation of his civil rights. That case was filed on Dec. 4, 2023.

However, a raft of court documents, some released by the family, paint a fuller picture of what transpired leading up to when state officials took the 14-year-old into custody in August 2023, prompted by threats of suicide and mental health concerns.

State vs. family

The Kolstads’ story went viral when an online Canadian magazine, Reduxx, picked it up and reposted the video.

The Kolstads maintained that Montana was taking their 14-year-old daughter away from them, against their will, allowing her to undergo gender-affirming care against their religious beliefs. They maintain that the state was not honoring their wishes to find mental health care for their child while not supporting the child’s transgender identity. The state countered that its only concern was to stabilize the child.

Records show that the CFS officials received at least two calls to law enforcement in August, both centering on the 14-year-old’s mental health, including threats of suicide.

While both the Kolstads and state CFS investigators agreed the child, who identifies as a male but is biologically female, needed psychiatric care, Todd and Krista, the custodial parents, did not want the child sent to a facility in Wyoming because of their belief that Wyoming did not prohibit gender-affirming care, whereas Montana passed legislation that was enjoined — or halted — that would have restricted gender-affirming care for residents less than the age of 18.

However, documents reveal that the state appeared to be less concerned about the gender identity, and more concerned about the risk of immediate harm to the child. Furthermore, state officials repeatedly raised concerns about Todd Kolstad’s use of alcohol as well as aggressive behavior and disputes in the house — assertions that the couple has previously denied.

Documents also show that medical officials who examined the 14-year-old report the youth had marks from previous self-harm and possible suicide attempts.

When contacted about the allegations after some of the documents were released, the Kolstads did not respond via a family representative.

What’s next?

Judge Laird awarded custody of the child to the biological mother, who now lives in Canada. Court documents indicate that the Kolstads objected to the placement, but Laird in her order said that state law attempts family “reunification” with the custodial parents, but when that fails, the next option is to try a placement with the non-custodial parent, in this case, the mother.

Documents state that the 14-year-old is doing well and mentally stable in Canada.

Those same documents shed light on part of the process the state undertook to reunify the family.

Montana child and family services workers and supervisors outlined steps for reunification, and part of that focused on issues surrounding alcohol addiction, and also recommended marital or family counseling.

The Kolstads have maintained such counseling is unnecessary and unwarranted, and have refused to participate in them. Because of that, the Valley County Attorney’s Office and Laird agreed that it was in the best interests of the child to be placed with her mother, even though other documents provided by the family indicate a strained and sometimes troubled relationship between the mother and child.

Laird wrote in her opinion:

“Unfortunately, during the pendency of this matter, the youth’s father and stepmother chose to focus on the youth’s struggle with gender identification rather than addressing the issues in the family home and ensuring a safe and supportive environment for the youth’s suicidal ideation. The father and stepmother have engaged in ongoing behavior that has violated the youth’s privacy and done so with no regard to the effects of such behavior on the youth and the youth’s well-being. All of which was done under the guise of protecting their First Amendment rights and in the name of their religion. The father and stepmother have also defended their actions by claiming they have protected the anonymity of the youth by not using the youth’s first name. Such claims are wholly untrue and self-serving, it should be self-evident to anyone who lives on or has spent time on the Hi-Line that simply not using a child’s first name does not provide any anonymity to the child. Given the worldwide platform to which the father and stepmother have pandered, it is unlike the youth can ever comfortably return to the Glasgow area or even the Hi-Line.”

The court documents acknowledge placing the child with the “non-custodial” parent may trigger a dispute between the Kolstads and the birth mother, but Laird, in her ruling, said the State of Montana’s interest in the case is limited to the health and stability of the child, not concerned with custody disputes.

Legal challenges

Bozeman attorney Matthew Monforton represented the Kolstads as an appellate attorney whose work focused on the gag order issued by Laird.

In the month between the time the Kolstads posted the video and the date set for the contempt hearing, he filed three briefs at the state Supreme Court, asking Montana’s highest court to stop the gag order as unconstitutional.

Laird, while dismissing the contempt charges as moot, addressed them in her order this week, chastising the Kolstads:

“The contempt by the father and stepmother is undeniable. However, the damage and harm inflicted by their actions cannot now be undone and is therefore moot. Given the mootness of the contempt, and the unlikelihood of self-reflection and self-accountability or repentance by either father or stepmother, proceeding to a contempt hearing would be an exercise in judicial futility and most likely bring further negative attention to the youth.”

The Montana Supreme Court rejected all the Kolstads’ motions, saying that their First Amendment defense was available to them in a contempt hearing, and that Laird was capable of weighing those arguments without the high court’s assistance. Moreover, the court said ruling on the case in the early stages was premature.

When the case was dismissed on Tuesday, it stopped the appellate process. But Monforton said the couple had a right to publicly comment on it, and didn’t deserve to be threatened with criminal action.

“Todd and Krista Kolstad’s faith gave them the courage to speak the truth in the face of the Gianforte Administration’s lies and a patently unconstitutional gag order,” Monforton said.