Spang gets suspended sentence in assault case


State District Judge John Warner has sentenced Jacob Gary Spang to a one-year suspended sentence for a misdemeanor charge of partner assault.

The Havre man, who was sentenced Tuesday, must remain law-abiding and refrain from drinking for a year or he could be sent to jail.

County Attorney David Rice had recommended a sentence of a year in jail with all but 30 days suspended, with credit for time served, when he and Spang reached a plea agreement on the assault charge.

The maximum penalty for the misdemeanor conviction is a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Warner previously told Spang that since this is his second conviction for partner assault in five years, another conviction for partner assault or a similar offense would be a felony. Since he has been convicted of a felony in the last five years, that could result in him being classified as a

persistent felony offender, a status that earns additional prison time.

Spang was found innocent of murder by accountability on June 14, 2000, in the double homicide of Kristi Walker and Kevin Caplette in 1999. He was convicted of tampering with evidence and two counts of intimidation by accountability in the case. He was accused of taking items from the victims' garage, taking the phone off the wall in their apartment, and unloading and reloading the gun used to kill the victims.

The Montana Supreme Court overturned the accountability convictions in 2002, ruling that statements Spang made to a Havre police officer after Spang said he needed a lawyer should not have been admitted at trial.

Rice decided not to retry Spang on the charges. Instead, Spang pleaded guilty on July 28 to one charge of accountability. Warner sentenced Spang to 981 days in prison, with credit for 981 days served.

The original charging document in the new case said that after turning himself in, Spang told a police officer that he hit the victim after they had been drinking the night before. He said he remembered hitting her once, but had been drinking a lot and didn't remember the details, the document said.

The victim told police that she hit Spang once after he hit her, then he knocked her to the ground, stood on her arms and hit her several more times, the charging document said.

The victim later recanted her story.

Spang had faced a felony charge of aggravated assault. Rice reduced the charge to a misdemeanor after two physicians said the victim's injuries were not permanent or life-threatening, which are requirements for the felony charge.

While the assault charge was pending, Spang was released on bond last fall. He was arrested on a charge of endangering the welfare of a child on Jan. 18. On Jan. 21, he was sentenced to six months in jail with all but 20 days suspended for that offense.

Spang's drinking that night, as well as the endangerment offense, violated his conditions for release on bond for the assault charge, Rice said.

According to Rice, Spang was a passenger in a car with an intoxicated driver and a small child when he was arrested on the endangerment charge.

His companion, Jamie The Boy of Havre, pleaded guilty to a charge of driving under the influence and pleaded not guilty to charges of endangering the welfare of a child and transporting a child under 2 without proper restraints. A pretrial hearing is set for March 11.


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