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The Butte-Silver Bow county attorney's office has charged Athena Smith, 32, with 12 felony counts for an incident Tuesday night that resulted in four youths requiring transport to St. James Healthcare.

Her bond has been set at $500,000.

The charges include 10 counts of criminal endangerment for creating a “substantial risk of death or bodily injury” when she allegedly drove erratically and out-of-control in a Big M parking area where eight juveniles and two young adults were gathered.

The county attorney's office is also charging Smith with an additional count of criminal endangerment for allegedly leading police on a high-speed chase through Butte. Police say she failed to stop at stop signs, failed to obey other traffic signals and risked injury to motorists and pedestrians while driving at a high rate of speed in a reckless manner.

Smith was also charged with assault on a peace officer for driving her vehicle, a Dodge Durango, directly at an officer, forcing him to take evasive action.

If convicted of all 12 charges, Smith could be sentenced up to 120 years in prison, prosecutors say. Each criminal endangerment count also carries a maximum fine of $50,000.

The incident began at about 10:30 p.m. Tuesday in a parking lot behind the Big M, where some youths had gathered to remember a friend, said B-SB County Undersheriff George Skuletich. Smith allegedly drove erratically around the parking lot. A video shot by one of the youths shows Smith smashing into vehicles while driving both forward and in reverse, as well as a young woman hobbling on one leg with cuts to her knee.

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Skuletich said as many as four were transported to the hospital.

Skuletich said Smith was trying to smudge the youths with burning sage. Smith tried to smudge a man at a Kia dealership in Butte on Saturday and was arrested for partner-family member assault. She has been formally charged with that count but had bonded out of jail by Tuesday night.

Skuletich said Smith appeared to be high at the time of her arrest Tuesday night and police believe she could have been under the influence of methamphetamine.

During the pursuit on the west side of town, Smith drove directly at an officer with her vehicle, police say. Officers chased her through the upper and lower west sides of Butte, Skuletich said. She allegedly drove in excess of 60 miles per hour through the construction zone on Excelsior Avenue. Still evading police, she allegedly headed west onto Mercury Street, where she ran into a dead end before driving up a private driveway where she was forced to stop.

Upon her arrest, Smith allegedly kicked and fought officers. An officer tazed her, Skuletich said.

Skuletich said more charges could be forthcoming. Currently, Smith is in the county jail, where she was placed Tuesday night for violation of release conditions, also a felony. Because of that felony count, Smith could not bond out.

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Nat'l Resources / General Reporter

Environmental and natural resources reporter for the Montana Standard.

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