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What started as a mental health crisis “morphed” into Mollie Rae Summers pointing a gun at a hospital worker and locking herself in an office at St. James Healthcare last February, her public defender said Thursday.

But Deirdre Cauglan said Summers, 50, has been regularly attending mental health therapy, hasn’t drunk alcohol for months, and is now “feeling the best she has in years.”

“She is on the right path,” Caughlan said before District Judge Kurt Krueger gave Summers a three-year deferred sentence for the incident.

Summers was initially charged with assault with a weapon, which is punishable by up to 20 years in prison. But in a deal with prosecutors, she pleaded guilty two weeks ago to a reduced charge of criminal endangerment. That carries a maximum of 10 years.

She can now avoid prison. And if she abides by all probation terms for three years, her record can be cleared. Those terms include continued mental health treatment, no alcohol, and continuing to take Antabuse for at least 90 more days.

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Antabuse is a prescription drug that causes most people to get violently ill, including throbbing headaches and vomiting, if they take even a sip of alcohol.

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Prosecutors say Summers was inside an office in the ultrasound lab at St. James on Feb. 1 last year when an employee walked in. Summers pointed a pistol at the employee and told her to get out. The worker left, slammed the office door behind her, and crawled to another area to call for help.

Jay Doyle, the hospital’s chief executive officer, was talking to Summers through the door when police arrived. The standoff, which led to sections of St. James being placed on lockdown, ended peacefully.

Summers apologized for the incident Thursday, and Krueger told her to work hard on her treatment programs.

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Government and politics reporter

Mike Smith is a reporter at the Montana Standard with an emphasis on government and politics.

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