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103012 christ trial

Jason Christ, left, appears in Missoula County District Court during proceedings in the case last year.

Jason Christ will not serve jail time for threatening to bomb a Missoula Verizon store.

Instead, Christ was ordered Wednesday to serve a six-year deferred sentence and pay a $10,000 fine after being convicted of felony intimidation in April.

Missoula District Court Judge Karen Townsend also ordered Christ to pay the cost of the prosecution, public defender and jury in the case, among other fines.

In August 2010, Christ made a series of phone calls to a Missoula Verizon store complaining about service. In one call, he threatened to “come down there and bomb your (expletive) store.”

The prosecution team told Townsend Verizon spent $30,000 to hire security guards after the incident.

“They were all shook by what they heard,” Townsend said of the employees who took phone calls from Christ before she announced the sentence. “I was also compelled to look at the past record.”

Townsend’s sentence allows Christ to pay off the $10,000 fine through community service at a certified nonprofit approved by his probation officer.

Christ also must pay several thousand dollars in restitution for work done by the Missoula Police Department to search his computer for data and audio files during the case.

Christ is a onetime medical marijuana advocate known for his traveling “cannabis caravans” and for smoking marijuana in public. He told Townsend on Wednesday he signed up more than 30,000 people for medical marijuana cards using the caravans.

However, Christ said Wednesday he no longer uses medical marijuana, despite still suffering symptoms from Crohn’s disease, Celiac disease and hemorrhoids. Christ told Townsend that going through the trial has helped him find God, inspired him to want to attend a “Bible college” in Redding, Calif., and seek a relationship with his estranged 18-year-old son.

“I appreciate what happened here,” he said through tears during a closing statement. “This has taught me I need to be aware of my own actions and take a serious look at myself. I don’t really care what the sentence is. ... I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing, seeking God.”

Assistant Chief Deputy County Attorney Jennifer Clark asked Townsend to impose a 10-year sentence with all but 30 days suspended.

The deferred sentence allows Christ to petition the court at the end of the six years to remove the charge from his record if he’s followed all conditions of his probation. Clark argued that the possibility of eventually removing the charge from Christ’s record was dangerous.

“This was not a one-time incident, it has happened before and it will happen again,” Clark said.

Christ’s appointed public defender, Pat Sandefur, whose ability to represent Christ was in question at the beginning of Wednesday’s proceedings, argued that being a “severe jerk” isn’t a crime and recommended a five-year deferred sentence.

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The daylong sentencing hearing began with Townsend deciding whether Sandefur could represent Christ during the proceeding.

Christ defended himself throughout the trial, but last week asked Townsend to allow him to be appointed a public defender.

Townsend called the request a “delay tactic” and refused to continue the sentencing to allow Sandefur extra time to prepare.

Townsend grilled Christ about his financial standing, asking about tens of thousands of dollars in cash she knew Christ to have and why it wasn’t used to secure an attorney.

Christ claimed to owe the IRS roughly $115,000 and said he also owes more than $40,000 in child support. Because liens had been placed on the cash by the IRS, Christ could face federal prosecution if he spent it, according to Dave Stenerson, of the state public defender’s office.

Stenerson also told Townsend that Christ had been approved for food stamps, which qualifies him for a public defender.

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When asked where the cash was, Christ told Townsend he had given the cash to his brother and it was in an undisclosed location.

“I told him it belonged to the IRS and I didn’t touch it,” Christ said.

Christ told Townsend he currently is living out of his car and camping around town living off a “few hundred bucks in my pocket.”

Still, Townsend found Christ was willing to work and earn income to pay back the cost of the public defender present during the trial and for Sandefur’s time Wednesday.

Sandefur called four character witnesses to speak on Christ’s behalf.

The first was Christ’s 18-year-old son, Cameron Spenny, who met Christ in person for the first time last week after flying to Missoula for the proceeding.

“He’s done a lot in his life and broken the law many times. But this man sitting before us is changing inside,” Spenny said.

Christ’s mother, stepfather and brother told Townsend via phone from California that while Christ can be verbally harsh, he’s never violent.

He’s made an effort in the past months to reconnect with his family and is doing a better job dealing with this anger, they said.

Christ indicated he eventually planned to move to California, where much of his family lives. Townsend directed Christ to meet with his probation officer immediately Wednesday, even if he plans to appeal the sentence.

If Christ decides to permanently relocate to California, he’d have to complete 1,250 hours of community service to pay off the $10,000 fine, Townsend said.

Clark noted during the proceedings that Verizon was free move forward with civil restitution charges to cover the $30,000 spent on security guards after the incident.

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Reporter Jenna Cederberg can be reached at 523-5241 or at jenna.cederberg@missoulian.com.

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