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A 22-year-old Missoula man who shot his fiancee with an AK-47 after an argument last year was sentenced to 20 years at the Department of Corrections with 15 of those suspended on Tuesday.

A jury found Anthony Mascarenas — originally charged with attempted deliberate homicide after the July 2016 shooting — guilty of an alternative charge of felony assault with a weapon after a two-day trial ended in August.

During Tuesday’s sentencing hearing, Chief Deputy County Attorney Jason Marks asked District Court Judge Robert “Dusty” Deschamps to sentence Mascarenas to 20 years in prison, the maximum sentence for the crime.

But Deschamps, noting among other things that Mascarenas had no other criminal history, imposed a Department of Corrections sentence that leaves open the possibility for pre-release or similar programs, and suspended three-quarters of the sentence.

Deschamps gave Mascarenas credit for the 423 days he has already spent in custody.

Mascarenas has been in custody since he surrendered to officers at the Rock Creek exit of Interstate 90 shortly after the shooting, after he drove away from his apartment on the 1700 block of Howell Street, leaving his fiancee lying near the sidewalk, bleeding from a gunshot wound to the knee.

Throughout the trial, Mascarenas’ attorney Steven Scott stressed that the shooting shouldn’t be considered attempted homicide, because Mascarenas had the opportunity to walk over and kill the woman after she fell to the first flurry of bullets, but fled instead.

In a police interview, Mascarenas said he and the woman were arguing, and that she left the house saying she was going to call the police.

He grabbed an AK-47 and several loaded magazines and followed her outside, chambering a round when, he said, he heard her on the phone. Mascarenas told detectives he was trying to shoot at the SUV across the street when he fired several times, hoping the sound would scare her into dropping the phone.

The woman was found by neighbors who heard the gunshot. She was eventually taken to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle for emergency surgery. She did not testify at trial or at Tuesday’s hearing.

On Tuesday, Mascarenas’ uncle Michael Mascarenas asked the judge to give his nephew “leniency” saying that he was just “a kid that went out and did a dumb thing.”

Scott asked Deschamps to impose a deferred sentence — which could eventually be taken off of Mascarenas’ record — saying it was his client’s first criminal conviction.

“He did make a dumb decision in shooting his rifle that evening,” Scott said.

In his own statement, Mascarenas repeated claims similar to those he made to detectives after he was arrested; saying he was paranoid about police and afraid they would kill him when his girlfriend threatened to call them.

“I love that woman more than anything in the world,” he said. “I feel as if going to prison will make my life worse.”

Mascarenas repeatedly said he never meant to shoot the woman, and had only been trying to scare her.

Deschamps said he didn’t buy that.

“I think it went way, way beyond careless,” the judge said.

Deschamps also noted that in the time Mascarenas has been in the Missoula County jail, he has racked up 80 disciplinary charges from 14 different incidents in the detention center, a number he called “highly unusual.”

Mascarenas said detention officers had targeted him to “make his life more miserable” adding that he felt he was discriminated against because of his ethnicity and the “high profile” of his case. He also admitted to having purposefully “made more work” for the officers, such as by flooding the toilet, when they upset him.

“I get mad, I’m not going to lie,” he said.

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Law and Justice Reporter

Crime reporter for the Missoulian.