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Matthew Van Valin

Matthew Van Valin

Matthew Van Valin and Judge Robert "Dusty" Deschamps both knew the score at Van Valin's sentencing hearing in Missoula County District Court on Tuesday.

"You're a bad man," Deschamps said. 

"It would appear so," Van Valin replied.

Van Valin, 29, was sentenced Tuesday in two cases leveled against him since July, one involving a high-speed chase after which he fired a gun inside a casino, the other stemming from an assault on another inmate since he's been jailed. For these two cases, Deschamps sentenced Van Valin to a 20-year commitment with the state Department of Corrections, with 15 suspended.

Deschamps took time to note that between Van Valin's 2008 felony assault charge and his latest string of crimes, he had committed a domestic assault, an obstruction charge and been arrested for robbery, although that charge was dismissed, according to Deschamps.

Van Valin and the judge agreed he had a propensity to get "involved in something he shouldn't have been." 

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Van Valin was arrested in July after stealing a car with the owner's black Labrador still inside, taking the vehicle to Ronan, where he ditched the dog, and then fleeing a police pursuit back to the Gray Wolf Peak Casino, where he ran through the crowded building, fired a weapon and hid behind a rock before his arrest. According to charging documents, 48 people were inside the casino at the time. None were reported injured.

Two months later, prosecutors charged Van Valin with felony intimidation and misdemeanor assault after he assaulted an inmate at the Missoula County Detention Center, according to court documents. When a detention officer declined Van Valin's request to be transferred to the maximum security unit, Van Valin responded by asking what the officers would do if they came back to the cell and found a dead body, according to charging documents.

The sentence Deschamps handed down Tuesday largely reflects the terms in the plea agreement offered by prosecutors in October. As part of that plea agreement, Van Valin pleaded guilty to two counts of criminal endangerment and one count of felony theft from the police chase incident, as well as the intimidation and assault charges from the jail incident.

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