A man accused of threatening to shoot police during an hours-long standoff inside an apartment pleaded not guilty to multiple charges Thursday, but he’s headed to Montana State Prison regardless.
That’s because District Judge Brad Newman had sentenced James Franklin Wasson to seven years on Monday for violating probation terms he received as part of a suspended sentence in a previous case.
Just days after avoiding prison time in that case for allegedly leading police on a high-speed chase and later escaping custody, Wasson, 29, holed up an apartment on Montana Street on Oct. 17 and threatened to shoot police at the door, prosecutor say.
That, too, followed a high-speed chase and together with the standoff resulted in 11 felony charges, including criminal endangerment and five counts each of assaulting a peace officer and intimidation for threatening to shoot officers at the scene.
If convicted of those, Wasson could be sentenced to another 110 years and more than $500,000 in fines. He faces more possible time in other cases. Wasson has admitted being addicted to drugs.
The latest incident began Oct. 17 when police spotted Wasson, who was wanted on warrants for a high-speed chase three days earlier, and started following the Cadillac he was driving.
A chase ensued and Wasson eventually abandoned the car and blocked himself in an apartment in the 600 block of Montana Street. Wasson at first threatened to shoot himself if officers came inside, prosecutors say.
He then threatened to shoot officers if they approached the door. An officer talked with Wasson by cell phone for several hours while police surrounded the building with high-powered guns and tactical gear.
At one point, Wasson said he had a grenade, which later proved false. Wasson ultimately surrendered peacefully.
Wasson entered not guilty pleas to the 11 charges before Judge Kurt Krueger. In a separate case involving a high-speed chase on April 17, he pleaded not guilty to two felony counts of criminal endangerment and one count of obstructing justice.
Minutes before entering pleas in those cases, Wasson was arraigned before Judge Newman on felony criminal endangerment and misdemeanor criminal mischief tied to a police chase on Oct. 14 – three days before he holed up in the apartment. He pleaded not guilty to those charges, too.
In that incident, Wasson allegedly fled police in a Ford pickup after trying to ram another pickup. He eventually drove through a fence and police stopped the pursuit to prevent a crash.
Only two days before that, he received a 10-year suspended sentence in exchange for pleading guilty to criminal escape. As part of the deal, prosecutors dropped six felony charges and one misdemeanor in a separate car chase in April.
But prosecutors said Wasson violated probation from the start and now needed prison time. Newman gave him seven years at the state prison, saying probation and community supervision were “inadequate to protect the public.” Wasson had argued for drug treatment instead.
He remains at the Butte-Silver Bow detention center for now pending hearings in the current cases.