NATIONAL NEWS

Woman who Montana police say drove repeatedly through religious group pleads not guilty

Dec 13, 2023, 10:59 AM

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A Montana woman who police say drove her vehicle repeatedly through a group of religious demonstrators, wounding one person, pleaded not guilty on Wednesday to multiple felony charges.

Genevienne Marlene Rancuret, 55, was arraigned in state district court and ordered held on $250,000 bond in the alleged weekend assault in Billings against members of Israel United in Christ.

About 10 men from the group were assembled along a busy road in front of a grocery store where they were holding signs and reading the Bible through an an amplifier, when Rancuret drove at or through them several times, according to court documents and a witness.

Moments earlier Rancuret had allegedly told an employee at a nearby convenience store that she thought the group was being racist against white people and suggested she was going to run them over. Rancuret later told police that the group had directed a derogatory term toward her and she felt threatened so she intentionally drove at them with her Jeep Wrangler, according to court documents.

A 45-year-old man who was struck suffered minor injuries, according to police. Property damage to the group’s equipment exceeded $1,500, according to court documents.

A representative of Israel United in Christ said earlier this week that its members were preaching peacefully when they were attacked without provocation. The New York-based religious group has been described by the Southern Poverty Law Center as “an extreme and antisemitic sect of Black Hebrew Israelites.” Followers believe that Judaism is a false religion and Black people, Hispanics and Native Americans are the true descendants of the tribes of Israel, according to the Anti-Defamation League.

Victims of the weekend assault and their supporters attended Wednesday’s hearing. They did not speak during the proceedings and afterward declined to speak with an Associated Press reporter.

Rancuret is charged with nine counts of assault with a weapon, criminal endangerment, criminal mischief and driving under the influence.

District Court Standing Master Bradley Kneeland, who presided over Wednesday’s arraignment, rejected a request by public defender Seth Haack to release Rancuret on her own recognizance so she could be with her 93-year-old mother.

Haack did not immediately respond to a telephone message seeking comment.

Rancuret pleaded guilty in 2021 to felony assault with a weapon after threatening someone with a bread knife, according to court records. She was given a seven-year deferred sentence and placed on probation.

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Woman who Montana police say drove repeatedly through religious group pleads not guilty