Nora Block sentenced to probation, $500 fine for role in school handgun incident

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Former Hardin High School art teacher Nora Bettina Block was sentenced to probation, a $500 fine and time served last Wednesday in connection with a Jan. 26, 2018 incident where a student brought a handgun to school. Montana Sixteenth Judicial District Court Judge Nikolas Murnion was presiding.

A jury convicted Block on Oct. 11, 2018 for felony tampering with or fabricating evidence, and misdemeanor obstructing a peace officer or other public servant. Charges stem from the January 2018 incident, where she was given a handgun by former student Uttekaat Birdinground and didn’t notify authorities until the following day. Block, according to a press release from the Big Horn County Attorney’s Office, “gave false statements to law enforcement as to the circumstances of the handgun’s discovery.”

A third charge of possession of a weapon in a school building was filed against her, but later dismissed by the state. Her attorney Penelope Strong objected to a condition of the sentence suggesting Block’s teaching license be suspended. According to the hearing’s minutes report, this condition was “modified to state that the defendant is to notify the superintendent as to the sentencing in this matter.”

For the felony tampering charge, Block was fined the $500 and four years were deferred from her sentence. For the obstruction charge, a possible six months in Big Horn County detention were deferred except four days, which the minutes stated were “already served.”

The Big Horn County Attorney’s Office had no further comment on the case, as a related case regarding Birdinground still is ongoing.