A judge rejected a proposed plea deal Thursday and sentenced an Anaconda man to the maximum 10 years in prison for crashing into a postal truck in Butte and fleeing the scene, even though the postal worker was hurt.
Prosecutors were willing to let Dakota James McClanahan, 21, have most of a 10-year sentence suspended if he successfully completed a seven-month program at a Montana facility for young adult offenders in Miles City.
McClanahan's public defender was OK with that, too, but District Judge Brad Newman said the crash on Aug. 6, 2016, "was no accident" because the defendant was high on meth and marijuana and caused serious injuries.
"He intentionally used those substances, and he intentionally got behind the wheel," Newman said.
Before sentencing, McClanahan read an apology letter addressed to the postal worker — Cory Steele — who was in the back of the courtroom. He did not look Steele's way but said, "I am truly sorry and take full responsibility."
Newman wasn't moved.
He sentenced McClanahan to the maximum 10 years at Montana State Prison for felony criminal endangerment and gave him five years for failing to give information and render aid. They will run concurrently, so the effective sentence is 10 years.
McClanahan was in an orange Butte-Silver Bow jail jumpsuit, but he has been jailed in Anaconda in recent days on a bail-jumping charge. He was to be returned there for resolution of that case before heading to state prison.
Steele, 53 at the time, was driving a mail truck on Aug. 6, 2016, when it was struck by a Jeep Liberty at the intersection of Hobson and Maryland at about 9:15 a.m. Police said McClanahan was driving and ran a stop sign.
McClanahan and a male passenger in the Jeep helped to free Steele from the overturned postal truck, but then McClanahan took off on foot. He was later arrested on North Montana Street.
As part of an earlier agreement, McClanahan pleaded guilty to the two felony charges. In return, county prosecutors would recommend that he be sent to the Treasure State Training Center boot camp program.
If he completed that six-month, military-style correctional program and a year of intense supervision, prosecutors were willing to have the rest of a 10-year sentence suspended.
But Newman said that plea deal was void now because the Montana Legislature effectively ended the boot camp program earlier this year.
Chief Deputy County Attorney Samm Cox told Newman he could accept McClanahan being sent instead to the young offender program. But if he didn't complete that successfully, he wanted McClanahan sent to state prison.
"He is a danger in his current condition," Cox told the judge.
Edmund Sheehy, McClanahan's public defender, said that proposal was acceptable.
Judges typically go along with plea deal recommendations, but they don't have to, and Newman rejected Thursday's proposal.
Although McClanahan is still young, Newman said he had spent much of his time already in jail or the criminal justice system. He said McClanahan has drug-addiction problems, but there are treatment programs available within the state prison.
Besides, Newman said, "I think we are rolling the dice on whether he will avail himself to treatment."
Sheehy said a three-year deferred sentence McClanahan received in Anaconda-Deer Lodge County on a drug-possession conviction won't begin until his prison time is up.