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Missoula bail bondsman Brad Aipperspach received a deferred jail sentence Thursday and was ordered to take gun safety courses after being convicted of a misdemeanor for shooting at the car of a fleeing woman in East Missoula.

After a two-day trial earlier this month, Aipperspach was found guilty of misdemeanor negligent endangerment for an October 2015 incident where he fired a shotgun at the car of Tess Kovash, who he was attempting to capture.

The bondsman had bailed Kovash out of jail, then been told by her probation officer and another bondsman that she was likely to skip her next court appointment. He went out to East Missoula with a group of other men to try to get her, despite the sheriff’s office declining to assist him and telling him it wasn’t a good idea.

Kovash got in her car after the men arrived, driving through her gate and down the street. The bondsman’s group had blocked off the road with their trucks, and it was disputed at trial whether Aipperspach fired at Kovash’s tire after she went past them or when she reversed after seeing she was trapped.

In an interview with a detective after the shooting, Aipperspach said when he saw Kovash fleeing, he looked at it as his money driving away.

At his sentencing hearing Thursday, prosecutor Brittany Santorno requested a fine as well as a one-year jail sentence with all of the time suspended except 10 days, which she said could be completed in alternative jail or jail work.

Aipperspach’s attorney Doug Marshall, who had already prepared the documents to appeal the case to the District Court level, said given a lack of criminal history his client was eligible for a deferred sentence.

Acting Justice of the Peace Thomas Orr agreed to the deferred sentence, but said the facts of the case had shocked him.

“I think that but for the grace of God one of your posse or somebody in the community out there could have gotten hurt. That is just not acceptable to me,” he said.

The deferred sentence means that if Aipperspach stays out of further trouble for the next year, he can ask for the conviction to be scrubbed from his record.

Orr ordered that Aipperspach also pay a $1,000 fine, but suspended a quarter of that under a condition that Aipperspach obtain 40 hours of gun safety training within the next three months.

“I think there needs to be some sort of lesson learned here,” he said.

Aipperspach also must pay for the cost of prosecution and the jury costs for his trial, which total just over $600. On agreement of both attorneys, Orr’s sentence will not be imposed until after Aipperspach’s appeal is completed.

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