A 19-year-old man has been given a deferred sentence for his involvement in a double shooting at a Missoula convenience store in March.
Judge Greg Pinski on Monday gave 19-year-old Ivory Brien a total sentence of 10 years, all deferred, for pepper-spraying a convenience store employee and customer during an armed robbery in which his co-defendant, Chase Munson, allegedly shot both victims before he and Brien fled. Both victims survived.
Missoula County prosecutor Mac Bloom said the county attorney's office argued for a 30-year sentence with 20 years suspended. Brien pleaded guilty earlier in August to one felony count of conspiracy to robbery and two misdemeanor assault charges.
Brien's defense counsel, Thane Johnson, had argued for a much lower sentence, 10 years, all of them suspended — a harsher sentence than Pinski actually handed down. With a deferred sentence, the charge against Brien could be dismissed if he completes the term without violating any laws or conditions of his sentence.
He said Brien had grown up with a substantial amount of family support and success in his high school years, and that the March incident was incongruent with events up until that time.
Johnson described Brien's move into Miller Hall at the University of Montana in fall 2017 as a "the perfect storm of influence," in an interview with the Missoulian on Monday.
"It was horrible for drug use, very serious drugs, selling drugs," he said. "Chase Munson was a huge influence."
Johnson added in the memo that no one would argue Brien's ability to deny the peer pressures that led him to the shooting, but on Monday he said they were pleased, surprised even, with Pinski's sentence.
"One moment of time should not define a young man of his makeup and character," Johnson said.
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According to Johnson's memo, Munson, Brien and a third student hatched a plan to steal beer from a convenience store; both Brien and Munson were under the influence of prescription medications when they headed for that store, Johnson wrote.
Bloom previously told the Missoulian Munson entered the convenience store armed with a .22-caliber revolver around 3:45 a.m. on March 6, with Brien in tow with a can of bear spray.
Munson allegedly shot a customer in the back, then walked up and shot him again in head. He then went around the counter and shot the clerk in the shoulder, Bloom said. One victim told the police that he could taste the chemicals from the spray as he lay on the ground bleeding, according to court documents.
Johnson said in his memo that once Brien gathered his thoughts, he fled the convenience store and headed back to campus. He hadn't realized Munson brought a gun to the robbery, Johnson said. Later on, "with the assistance of his parents," Ivory turned himself into authorities, Johnson wrote.
Before the sentencing took place, Brien had already gone through outpatient drug treatment and meets with a therapist and drug counselor. To Johnson, that's justice: accepting responsibility and working to avoid such vices.
"He's taken all those steps since the crime to help himself," Johnson said. "This is the the way our justice system should work."
Munson, who faces two counts of attempted deliberate homicide, was scheduled to stand trial this week on the charges. Attorneys asked that his trial be delayed, however, considering the case may be resolved in a plea agreement, according to the motion to continue.
Munson is due in Missoula District Court Tuesday morning for a hearing to reset the trial date.