BUTTE, Mont. — A Butte couple has pleaded not guilty to charges that allege they forced the woman’s developmentally disabled mother to panhandle since 2013.

Anna George, 29, and her husband, Steven Cothren, 47, pleaded not guilty Thursday to felony elder abuse during a hearing in District Court, The Montana Standard (http://bit.ly/2jMgdeH) reported. A trial date has not been set.

George and Cothren were charged in December after George’s 67-year-old mother told investigators she was being forced to beg for money. She said the couple also took some or most of her Social Security check and food stamps and charged her rent to live with them.

Butte-Silver Bow law enforcement first became aware of the woman’s panhandling in November 2012, but things escalated in 2016, court records said.

The mother was arrested for panhandling in February, April and May of 2016. In all cases, George and Cothren were found nearby. In June, the woman testified that her daughter and son-in-law were forcing her to panhandle and that they would get mad sometimes if she didn’t come back with enough money.

The woman was found panhandling at Rocker in September and giving money to Cothren, but she denied being forced to panhandle. She was arrested in November for failing to appear in court on several citations, and told officers in early December that George and Cothren were forcing her to beg for money, even in freezing temperatures.

They were arrested and charged.

When Cothren posted bail Dec. 7, he told the Justice of the Peace that because his bail conditions required no contact with the victim, he was kicking her out of the trailer where they lived. She was at the homeless shelter the next day, court records said.


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