Dane Anthony Gibson, the 52-year-old man accused of hijacking a bus and holding a man hostage on Wednesday, made his initial appearance in Butte-Silver Bow Justice Court Friday afternoon.
County prosecutors are charging Gibson with two felonies: aggravated kidnapping and assault with a weapon. If convicted, the charges carry maximum sentences of life in prison and 20 years in prison, respectively.
Justice of the Peace Jimm Kilmer set Gibson's bond at $100,000.
Gibson, who was represented by a public defender, did not speak in court except to briefly answer questions from Kilmer.
Besides law enforcement, lawyers, the judge, the media, and the accused, the only other person in court Friday was Dameane Baumgartner, the man Gibson allegedly held at gunpoint while the bus was parked in the Butte Civic Center parking lot.
"Right now, I feel like there's somebody with a gun in my back, and it's pretty horrible," Baumgartner said before Gibson entered the courtroom. "But I'm not here against this guy. I'm here to be there so he knows I understand. ... I feel bad for what I did to him, as stupid as that sounds."
What Baumgartner did, he said, was punch Gibson before running off the bus and escaping to safety after being held against his will for more than two hours.
He made his escape while taking advantage of police placing a bag of what was supposed to be his "last meal" on the bus's steps, he said.
While he was held on the bus, Baumgartner said Gibson told him about his life and his political views — and the intersection between the two.
According to Baumgartner, Gibson told him he had worked as a carpenter until he was hit by a vehicle and injured. That left him unable to work and feeling resentful, as he perceived minorities were getting benefits that he wasn't receiving, Baumgartner said.
"He wanted people to hear how the white male is discriminated against," Baumgartner said.
Baumgartner said Gibson's motivation appeared to be "all political," though he also noted that he appeared to have mental health issues.
Gibson had left Spokane, where he was living, for Montana, because he believed people in the Treasure State would be more receptive to his conservative views, Baumgartner said. In particular, he wanted to speak to Ryan Zinke, a former Montana Congressman who recently resigned from his position as Interior Secretary under President Donald Trump after facing numerous ethics investigations.
When Baumgartner told Gibson about Zinke's recent resignation under a cloud of investigations, Gibson called him a "a liar," Baumgartner said.
"He was a Trump guy, which stinks, because I'm a Trump guy," Baumgartner said.
Baumgartner noted that he is a recovering addict who has spent years in prison for crimes of his own. That, he said, left him feeling a strange sympathy for the man who allegedly threatened his life and pointed a gun at him for hours.
"In a weird kind of way, I almost feel like I betrayed his trust by hitting him and running away," he said.
According to Baumgartner, he had been in Missoula, where the bus was travelling from, to have a heart procedure and had been feeling like "I didn't necessarily want to live."
"Then he told me that we're gonna die today, and then I realized I do want to live," Baumgartner said.
"I realized that this guy isn't a monster," Baumgartner added. "He just wanted to be understood."
While he said he doesn't believe Gibson should spend time in prison but instead needs mental health treatment, Baumgartner also said that Gibson's alleged actions had crossed the line.
"You can't go hijacking buses to get what you want," Baumgartner said.
After Gibson was taken back to jail in shackles and handcuffs, Baumgartner left the courthouse, too, though he wasn't sure where he was going.
Baumgartner said he is currently homeless and can't get his change of clothes that he was carrying on the bus, because it's being kept for evidence. As a result, he said he was still wearing the clothes he had on when he ran off the bus Wednesday.