Age at the date of crime: 31
County of Conviction: Sanders County
Convicted of: First-Degree Murder, Assault with a Firearm
Sentence: Life in Prison
Years Served: 18
Released: September 7, 2016
Cost of Wrongful Incarceration: $648,000 (in 2015 dollars)
On September 7, 2016 Richard Raugust walked out of the Sanders County Courthouse a free man, 18 years after being wrongfully convicted of the murder of Joe Tash, his best friend.
Mr. Raugust was convicted in March 1998, a decade before the formation of the Montana Innocence Project. In 2009, Mr. Raugust contacted the newly-formed Montana Innocence Project.
During its re-investigation of the case, the Montana Innocence Project discovered that prosecutors withheld evidence that supported Mr. Raugust’s alibi and the State’s key witnesses had lied, including one witness for the State who confessed to others that he had murdered Mr. Tash.
Based on this new information, Sanders County District Court Judge James Wheelis overturned Mr. Raugust’s conviction and ordered a new trial. The prosecution dismissed the charges, making Mr. Raugust the Montana Innocence Project’s first exoneree.