MISSOULA — The ex-boyfriend of Jermain Charlo, the Dixon Agency woman who's been missing since June 2018, appeared in U.S. District Court Monday in Missoula on a firearms and ammunition charge related to a past assault involving Charlo.
Michael DeFrance, 28, pleaded not guilty to a charge of prohibited person in possession of firearms and ammunition.
DeFrance was released on conditions that he not commit any offense, not change his telephone number or address without alerting his pre-trial probation officer, and cooperate when asked to submit to a DNA swabbing, among other court requirements.
DeFrance's court-appointed attorney raised questions about the DNA sample and referenced what he called a "parallel investigation involving the disappearance of an individual."
Judge Kathleen L. DeSoto indicated that federal court is not involved in a state investigation and does not have jurisdiction over what occurs at the state level.
An indictment filed on July 28 states that DeFrance was convicted of a misdemeanor crime of violence on May 6, 2013. The indictment indicates that on or about June 27, 2018, and October 2, 2018, DeFrance violated the terms of that conviction by "knowingly possessed, in and affecting interstate commerce, firearms and ammunition..."
On May 6, 2013, DeFrance pled guilty to a partner or family member assault in Sanders County. In court documents from that incident, DeFrance wrote, "On 4-14-2013 in Sanders County, I caused bodily injury to my girlfriend."
DeFrance's girlfriend at the time was Jermain Charlo. Charlo disappeared from downtown Missoula in June of 2018. She was last seen on video walking down the alley behind the Badlander Bar.
At this time, authorities have not made any connection between DeFrance and Charlo's disappearance.
Her disappearance, however, has garnered nationwide attention and is the subject of Connie Walker's podcast, "Stolen: The Search for Jermain Charlo.”
Some members of Charlo's family were in the courtroom on Monday. After the proceedings, Jermain's aunt, Valenda Morigeau, said the family hoped the court appearance was a stepping stone.
If convicted of the most serious crime, Defrance faces a maximum of 10 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release.
- additional reporting from Geneva Zoltek included in this report