- Associated Press - Thursday, January 30, 2014

ANACONDA, Mont. (AP) - A state judge has denied a bail reduction for a former correctional facility nurse charged with trying to intimidate a witness after she was charged with having sex with three inmates.

District Judge Ray Dayton heard testimony Wednesday on Tisha Ann Brunell’s request for a reduction in her $100,000 bail. Her attorney, Victor Bunitsky, asked that she be released on her own recognizance so she could help with her defense against more than 50 charges, including four counts of sexual intercourse without consent. By law, inmates cannot consent to sex.

The 45-year-old Anaconda woman also is charged with six counts of transferring illegal articles to inmates at the state’s Sanction, Treatment, Assessment, Revocation and Transition, or START, program. The facility northeast of Anaconda is for people facing return to prison for violating their parole.

Brunell also faces 43 misdemeanor counts of unauthorized communications. She has pleaded not guilty to all the charges and has lost her nursing license. Her trial is scheduled to start in March.

Brunell was free on a $25,000 bond last year when investigators found evidence she was trying to tamper with witnesses. She was charged with felony solicitation to tamper with witnesses and her bail was increased. She has been jailed for the past six months, The Montana Standard (https://bit.ly/1feZa8b ) reported.

During Wednesday’s hearing, investigators played several recorded phone calls, including one Brunell placed to her then-husband while she was jailed the first time. In it, the couple spoke of using a gang at the Montana State Prison to intimidate a witness in her case.

“She’s not safe in the community,” Deer Lodge County Attorney Bren Krakowa argued.

In another recorded conversation, Brunell was heard trying to coerce an inmate into threatening a witness. They also talked about a “Plan B” if intimidation didn’t work, but said they couldn’t discuss “Plan B” over the phone.

Bunitsky argued for her release, saying his client may have been “doing something she shouldn’t be doing,” but had no criminal record prior to her initial arrest.

“Mr. Bunitsky, why would I do such a thing?” Dayton asked.

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Information from: The Montana Standard, https://www.mtstandard.com

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