At a sentencing hearing a judge likened to a full trial Wednesday, a Butte woman recalled her boyfriend flipping out during a drive near Silver Lake, trying to swerve into other motorists and putting a gun to her face before it all ended in a standoff with police.
“He brought it up and held it to my face and I said, ‘Don’t you shoot me!’” the woman, fighting back tears, said of 49-year-old David Thomas Huot of Anaconda. “I really honestly thought he was going to take us both out.”
District Judge Ray Dayton gave Huot a five-year suspended sentence for kidnapping, assault with a weapon and assaulting an officer, but said he was angry that Huot tried to downplay events and suggest it wasn’t a kidnapping after previously pleading guilty.
“I told you, ‘Don’t plead guilty if you didn’t commit the crime,’” Dayton said in a near shout, adding that, “I believe, Mr. Huot, you stuck a gun in (her) face.”
He fined Huot $2,500 and ordered him to undergo treatment for chemical dependency and mental health issues and complete a program on recognizing impacts on victims. He then ended the two-and-a-half-hour hearing with stern words.
“You are leaving the courtroom today on your own steam,” Dayton told him. “If you have to come back on a revocation, you’re going to leave here in handcuffs and chains.”
The woman said she and Huot had been dating for about six years when they drove to Georgetown Lake in his pickup on July 15, 2017 to scout out camp sites. They had each had a drink or two and Huot had recently lost a longtime job because of a DUI.
She said while driving near Silver Lake, he suddenly became aggressive. She called police from his truck and told a dispatcher that Huot was “talking crazy about wanting to kill himself” and speeding, prosecutors say.
She said he had a gun and the dispatcher could hear her crying and pleading with him to put it down and stop. She told police later that Huot tried to swerve into other motorists while speeding through West Valley on the way back to Anaconda.
Police say he stopped on Howe Street in Anaconda, got out with her still in the pickup and went in and out of a travel trailer, asking officers to shoot him. They had guns drawn but an officer managed to use a Taser on Huot, who injured an officer’s leg during a struggle.
In a deal with prosecutors, Huot pleaded guilty in December to kidnapping, assault with a weapon and assaulting an officer, together punishable by up to 40 years in prison. The state dropped charges of criminal endangerment and tampering with a witness.
In court Wednesday, Huot admitted asking the woman to tell police he never had the pistol in his truck. She said he reached for it between the seats before holding it “right between my eyes.”
A friend and a neighbor testified on Huot’s behalf and in answering questions from Public Defender J.B. Anderson, said the woman told them she didn’t believe she had been kidnapped. They also said she was afraid he would hurt himself, not her.
After whispering with Anderson for a minute or two, Huot took the stand and said before the incident that he had just lost his job, recently lost his mother and was having trouble with his teen-age son.
“I just felt like I was losing everything,” he said.
The woman said Huot had never acted like he did that day, but said she was afraid both would die during the ordeal along with others on the road. It was still hard to deal with, she said.
“It’s been tough,” she told Ben Krakowka, Anaconda-Deer Lodge county attorney and lead prosecutor. “It makes me physically sick to be here today.”
Anderson asked Dayton to give Huot a three-year-suspended sentence, but Krakowka argued for a five-year sentence with two served at Montana State Prison and the other three suspended.
“It is very lucky that the victim didn’t end up dead and officers didn’t end up shooting him,” Krakowka said. “There has to be a penalty for this.”
Dayton spoke for the last 10 minutes, saying it was a difficult case that demanded careful considerations of punishment, rehabilitation and public safety.
Although angered over defense suggestions that it was not a true kidnapping, he said Huot had no prior felonies and was unlikely to get immediate treatment if sent to prison or direct custody of the Department of Corrections.
He would be supervised closely on probation, Dayton said, but “I’m not going to put you in prison today, Mr. Huot.”
The woman said afterward that she wanted to see Huot get some of his treatment in prison custody.
“It’s disappointing, but it’s over,” she said.