Man sentenced to 18 months in prison for making racially-motivated harassing calls to African American woman employed at Billings church
BILLINGS — A man who admitted making numerous racially-motivated harassing calls to an African American woman employed at a Billings church was sentenced today to 18 months in prison, to be followed by one year of supervised release, U.S. Attorney Jesse Laslovich said.
Joshua Leon Hiestand, 41, formerly of Dillon, pleaded guilty in June to harassing phone calls.
U.S. District Judge Susan P. Watters presided. The court also ordered $617 restitution.
“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. 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. We are better than this,” U.S. Attorney Laslovich said.
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.
In court documents and statements in court, the government alleged that in November 2020, Hiestand, a white man, 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. Hiestand’s behavior escalated. In another voicemail from Hiestand, he stated, “Nobody wants you here.” Jane Doe contacted the Billings Police Department, and officers identified Hiestand as the caller. In a telephone interview with law enforcement, Hiestand apologized for his conduct. But his behavior continued. 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 ass race.” Hiestand’s conduct continued for approximately the next 19 months. Hiestand also made similar threatening and racially motivated calls to Historically Black Colleges and Universities in the southern United States. The investigation determined that Hiestand placed the calls from outside of Montana.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Zeno B. Baucus prosecuted the case. The FBI and Billings Police Department conducted the investigation.
Clair J. Howard
Public Affairs Officer
Press Release Number: 23-400