By Tim Leeds/Havre Daily Newsfirstname.lastname@example.org
Lionel Demontiney has been sentenced to five years in prison followed by 15 years of supervised release for a felony charge of aggravated assault.
"It's necessary for the community, for the safety of the community, but also for you ," Judge Thomas McKittrick of Great Falls said Friday in the state District Court in Havre. "You're going to be watched for 20 years."
McKittrick said Demontiney's behavior at the Hill County Detention Center was part of the reason he added 15 years of supervision to a five-year prison sentence recommended in Demontiney's plea agreement with the Hill County Attorney's Office. Demontiney was charged in connection with three incidents in the jail between June 4 and Aug. 15, including a riot on June 4.
Demontiney, 21, told the judge that the help he can receive in prison, including substance abuse treatment, anger management counseling and working to get a high school diploma, will help him turn his life around.
"I'm fully wanting to change my life," he said.
Demontiney said he has become religious and is using religion to control his anger.
Picking up on that theme, McKittrick said: "If somebody even slaps you, you turn the other cheek."
Demontiney replied: "It also says an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth."
McKittrick sentenced Demontiney to 20 years in state prison with 15 years suspended, which means he'll spend those 15 years under supervised release. McKittrick also ordered Demontiney to pay $94,180 in restitution for current and future medical expenses for the assault victim.
Gabriel Cheatam has undergone multiple reconstructive surgeries and does not have full use of his right eye due to injuries suffered in the assault, deputy Hill County attorney Gina Bishop said during Friday's hearing.
"That's a tremendous amount of money and the court wants you, when you get out, to make a good-faith effort (to pay it,)" McKittrick said. "You owe that to society and to Mr. Cheatam."
Bishop said Cheatam, who did not attend the hearing, wants Demontiney to serve more time than the Hill County Attorney's Office recommended, but supported the plea agreement.
"(Cheatam) was realistic," she said.
Friday's sentencing dealt only with the felony assault charge. Demontiny will be sentenced Wednesday by Judge David Rice on the charges stemming from incidents at the jail.
In the plea agreement, the Hill County Attorney's Office recommended a five-year prison sentence for the assault charge, followed by a 10-year suspended sentences for felony charges of assaulting a peace officer and possessing a deadly weapon in a jail. The Hill County Attorney's Office also recommended a six-month sentence for a misdemeanor charge of assault with bodily fluids, with credit for time served. Four other charges will be dropped.
Demontiney's attorney, Brian Lilletvedt, said his client's troubles stem from growing up in a troubled home where alcohol and drug use was common. Most of Demontiney's own problems are alcohol- and drug- related, he added. Demontiney can enter programs at the state prison that can help him, Lilletvedt said.
McKittrick noted that Demontiney had earlier been sentenced to prison after a jury had convicted him of mitigated deliberate homicide in the shooting death of his cousin Bryan Gopher in an altercation at the Holiday Village Shopping Center parking lot on Nov. 22, 2000. That conviction was overturned by the Montana Supreme Court, which found fault with then District Judge John Warner's instructions to the jury.
McKittrick said that while the overturned conviction would not be considered in Friday's sentencing, it was troubling that Demontiney had ended up back in jail in such a short time on a felony assault charge.
"It's hard to ignore the life that was lost," he added about Gopher's death.
The assault charge stemmed from an incident April 24. Havre police officers responding to a call found Cheatam lying in an alley bleeding from his face and mouth, a court document said.
A witness told the officer that Demontiney, then 20, had arrived at the scene in a van, approached Cheatam and began beating him after saying, "Don't do that to my brother," the charging document said.
Another witness said Demontiney had been told that his brother, Christopher Demontiney, had been beaten up, the document said.
"Mr. Cheatam did not make threats to you or your friends or family," McKittrick told Demontiney. "In any event, this is an innocent person who will carry the scars for the rest of his life."