A Jefferson County judge declined a request to reduce bond for John Russell Howald, 43, of Basin, who is accused of multiple counts of criminal endangerment, as well as assault on a county deputy. 

Howald pleaded not guilty April 22 in the Fifth Judicial District Court and is being held under a $250,000 bond. His trial is likely scheduled for the week of Oct. 19, pending an order from Judge Luke Berger, according to Dorianne Woods, Jefferson County clerk of district court.

During Howard’s arraignment April 22, Chief Deputy Jefferson County Attorney Andrew Paul objected to the bond reduction request, stating, “He was in town and basically shooting up the place.” 

At the time, Howald allegedly told residents he was there “to clear out the town,” said Paul, adding that a shell was found inside a residence.

The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office recovered 11 shell casings at the scene, according to court documents. 

The charges stem from an incident March 22, where a man was observed walking down the road in Basin carrying two rifles and wearing a black stocking cap and backpack, according to court documents. 

The suspect was confronted by Jefferson County Sheriff’s Deputy Shaun Gardner, who drew his pistol on the man and told him to drop his weapon, according to court documents. The suspect, in turn, pointed a rifle at the deputy, but the deputy did not fire on him due to other people being nearby, according to court documents. 

Howald was apprehended the next day. The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office found 11 bullet casings, including one that was found in a residence and several that struck the fence, according to court documents. 

Howald’s attorney, Samuel Martin, argued that Howald could not afford $250,000 and asked that the bond be “significantly reduced” or that he be released on his own recognizance as he has ties to the area. 

Judge Luke Berger denied the request, stating that if there were not people in the area, the situation could have been much worse. 

The facts of this case are very concerning, said Berger. 

Numerous questions concerning the event, and sent to Sheriff Craig Doolittle and Paul, were not answered by press time.

Questions included why the deputy did not fire on Howald, why it took a day to apprehend the suspect, what means were used to find the suspect and why the shelter-in-place order was lifted before he was found. 

Howald is charged with 11 felony counts of criminal endangerment and one felony count of assault on a peace officer. Each criminal endangerment count carries a possible prison sentence of up to 10 years and a fine of no more than $50,000 or both. The assault charge carries a penalty of two to 10 years in prison and can be fined an amount not to exceed $50,000, according to the Montana Code Annotated.

Martin pointed out that Howald had just one other felony conviction, for animal cruelty in 2005, and that he served his sentence for that crime. The case involved the beheading of a dog, according to the Helena Independent Record in September 2005.

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