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Police booked a Butte man on a felony complaint of strangulation of a partner or family member, a new offense created by Montana lawmakers this year.

It’s at least the second time someone has been accused of the newly defined crime in Butte-Silver Bow County since Gov. Steve Bullock signed it into law in May.

Police arrested Andrew Stephen Enget, 32, for allegedly grabbing his girlfriend by the throat during an argument at the Town Pump in Rocker shortly after noon Thursday.

The woman said Enget grabbed her neck, put her in a choke hold, and took her to the ground. He took off on foot, but police located him quickly. He was still in jail late Friday morning.

Supporters of the newly defined crime told lawmakers that 44 other states have laws specific to domestic strangulation, and without one in Montana, domestic violence cases can end up being prosecuted at a misdemeanor level if it's a first or second offense.

Cases involving strangling or grabbing someone by the throat can sometimes be tried as aggravated assault or criminal endangerment, but all elements of those can be hard to prove.

On Thursday, a 19-year-old man pleaded not guilty in Butte District Court to a felony charge of strangulation of a partner or family member. Tyler John Ossello is accused of grabbing a former girlfriend by the throat.

Under the new law, the crime carries a maximum five-year prison term and $50,000 fine. The penalties can go up for subsequent convictions.

People have been charged with the new crime in several Montana cities, including Billings, Bozeman, Helena, and Missoula.

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Reporter with emphasis on government and politics.

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