A Billings man with a history of mental illness was sentenced Monday for choking his girlfriend and failing to get medical help for a seriously injured infant.
After a lengthy hearing that included testimony from a psychiatrist, District Judge Gregory Todd ordered Gabriel David Michael Piersak to serve concurrent terms of 10 years with the state Department of Corrections, with five years suspended, for aggravated assault and criminal endangerment.
The charges stem from incidents that happened about a year apart. The prosecution asked the judge to impose a 10-year prison sentence on Piersak, who was designated a persistent felony offender as part of his sentence.
But the judge noted that Piersak's psychiatrist testified the man had been diagnosed with an unspecified mood disorder and had been previously treated with medication that may have exacerbated a violent outburst.
The psychiatrist and Piersak's father testified that Piersak has been treated for mental health issues since he was a teenager.
The judge said a sentence to the state corrections agency would provide a greater opportunity for Piersak to continue his mental health treatment.
Piersak spoke briefly during the hearing, telling the judge he does not recall the attack on his girlfriend but takes responsibility for the crime.
The victim, Amanda Eldred, also testified and told the judge she wants Piersak to receive treatment. She said she intends to withdraw a no-contact order that has prevented him from seeing the couple's daughter.
Piersak pleaded guilty to the charges in September. In the criminal endangerment case, Piersak admitted that in May 2011 he was caring for a 3-month-old child who suffered a serious head injury. Piersak failed to immediately get medical help for the child.
Piersak was dating the child's mother at the time of the incident, but the child was not his.
Deputy County Attorney Juli Pierce said the injury to the child could have been fatal. The child has since recovered and is doing well, she said.
Piersak said Monday that the child was injured when he came to a sudden stop while driving. The child's car seat disconnected from the base, he said.
Piersak was charged for that offense in June 2011. He initially told an officer that he dropped the child on his head, but later said he lied because he did not want his girlfriend's child to be taken by state social workers.
Later in 2011, Piersak was charged in Miles City with a felony drug offense for possessing marijuana.
He received a three-year deferred sentence in that case, but the deferral was revoked based on the assault charge and Piersak has since been ordered to serve a three-year suspended sentence.
Todd ordered the new sentence to run consecutive to the drug case.
In May of last year, while the endangerment case was pending, Piersak attacked Eldred, punching her several times and choking her twice until she lost consciousness.
Piersak's father, David Piersak, said that nine days before the attack, he had taken his son into a doctor who prescribed a new medication.
Eldred said that in the days that followed, she saw Piersak's behavior change and he became more irritable.
The attack happened, she said, when she told Piersak she wanted to end their relationship. She suffered a broken nose and other injuries.