A 57-year-old man was sentenced Tuesday to 30 years in prison for firing a gun at two men who followed him out of the casino he had just robbed in April.
Stephen Antill, formerly a railroad worker, told the Missoula District Court judge that last year he had been completely broke, drinking heavily and at the end of a long stretch of hard luck.
"This was the lowest point in my life," he told Judge Robert "Dusty" Deschamps. "I always had a job, a roof over my head. At 57 years old I was looking at being homeless the rest of my life."
Missoula Deputy County Attorney Mark Handelman said the act was well-planned and deliberate: Antill was caught on the Nickel Ante Casino's security camera with a black ski mask and a plastic bag over the gun, presumably meant to catch the shell casings and recover any evidence, Handelman said.
After the casino employee, who Handelman said changed jobs because of the robbery, gave Antill the money, a patron followed Antill out and, according to court documents, Antill shot several times at the man, missing him each time. At least one bullet hit a window of the casino, however, and caused broken glass to "bounce off" the face of another man who was walking out of the building at the same time.
"He wasn't shooting at the ground or above their heads, he was shooting at them," Handelman said.
Antill pleaded guilty in December to deliberate attempted homicide and robbery charges after taking a plea agreement with prosecutors. In his statement to the court, Antill apologized to the victims, casino employees and thanked the Missoula police for not shooting him on the night of the incident last April.
He made a plea to Deschamps on Tuesday to regard the shooting as an isolated offense on a relatively benign criminal record, saying his divorce had led to his drinking, which led to a few DUIs, which led to his loss of work.
But the judge wouldn't have it.
"I personally take people who commit crimes with firearms and shooting people very seriously; I have a very dim view of that," Deschamps said.
Deschamps ultimately took the prosecutor's recommendation: 40 years in prison with 10 suspended.