Defendant in Nevada County Jail OD case takes plea agreement |

Defendant in Nevada County Jail OD case takes plea agreement

A man accused of smuggling drugs into the Nevada County Jail in 2016, allegedly leading to the overdose death of another inmate, pleaded no contest on Tuesday to one felony count of bringing drugs into the jail.

Conner Milkey, 28, had taken a plea agrement in January 2018, then withdrew his plea a few months later, court records state. That plea deal had called for three years’ probation and a drug treatment program, along with credit for serving 276 days in jail.

Once that agreement was withdrawn, a prior charge of involuntary manslaughter had been reinstated, prosecutors said.

Milkey appeared Tuesday in Nevada County Superior Court for a scheduled preliminary hearing into the evidence against him, But instead, he agreed to plead no contest to the lesser felony count.

Judgment and sentencing were deferred for two years, said Milkey’s attorney, Lawrence Montgomery. If Milkey commits no new offenses, he then will be permitted to withdraw his plea and enter a plea to a misdemeanor charge. If Milkey does commit a crime, he would be sentenced to three years in prison, Montgomery noted.

After accepting the plea agreement, Judge Scott Thomsen congratulated Milkey for “what I think is a big change to your life,” noting his participation in a Salvation Army program.

The case against Milkey stemmed from the May 2016 death of Joshua Hightower-Malta.

According to court records, Milkey was arrested in 2016 and taken to the local jail on a drug charge. Milkey allegedly smuggled 11 grams of heroin into jail and then shared it with others.

At the time of Hightower-Malta’s death, authorities didn’t have enough evidence to charge Milkey. But in July 2017, Milkey was arrested again and while in jail, he reportedly made a phone call admitting to smuggling drugs into the jail the year before.

Two lawsuits were filed against the county in the wake of Hightower-Malta’s death, alleging jail officials failed to ensure the safety of an inmate who died while incarcerated. Both were dismissed.

Contact reporter Liz Kellar at 530-477-4236 or by email at

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