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Judge sentences Whitefish man accused of shooting at kayakers

Hagadone News Network | May 17, 2023 1:00 AM

The man accused of shooting at kayakers on Lower Stillwater Lake last year received four suspended one-year sentences in the Flathead County Detention Center late last month.

Judge Amy Eddy handed the sentences down to 49-year-old Jeffrey Allen Smith in Flathead County District Court on April 27. The quartet of one-year stints are to run consecutively.

Prosecutors initially charged Smith with four counts of felony assault with a weapon, but later amended the charges to criminal endangerment in November 2022. In exchange for an Alford plea earlier this year, prosecutors again altered the charges, this time to four counts of misdemeanor negligent endangerment.

In an Alford plea, a defendant maintains their innocence, but acknowledges a jury likely will find them guilty.

Authorities arrested Smith after responding to a 911 call on June 18, 2022 reporting an individual shooting at kayakers at the lake. As deputies with the Flathead County Sheriff’s Office arrived, they heard gunshots, court documents said.

Locating Smith and his parked minivan, investigators found about 15 shotgun casings on the ground between the vehicle and the water’s edge, according to court documents. Deputies also allegedly spotted “numerous firearms and ammunition” inside the minivan.

Smith initially pleaded not guilty to the charges.

In addition to the four one-year suspended sentences, Eddy ordered Smith to pay a $100 fine for each misdemeanor count and $300 in surcharges. She directed him to avoid the victims in the case, continue receiving mental health treatment and banned him from buying, owning or handling firearms while serving out his sentences.

The Sheriff’s Office will hold onto the weapons and ammunition seized from Smith at the lake, per Eddy’s ruling, but he can petition to have them returned upon completion of an instructor-led hunter safety program.

Smith received credit for 14 days of time served for each count.