A judge sentenced a Natrona County man to five years of probation Wednesday for pointing an AR-15 rifle at sheriff’s deputies who were responding to a shots fired call.

If he violates the terms of his probation, Michael Kegler will face a four-and-a-half- to six-year prison sentence.

Kegler was arrested in April after the deputies managed to apprehend him without injuries. He later pleaded guilty in Natrona County District Court to aggravated assault, a felony, and misdemeanor reckless endangerment.

On Wednesday, Judge Daniel Forgey said he was considering rejecting a plea agreement that would keep Kegler out of prison on good behavior. Forgey eventually decided to accept the agreement and its corresponding sentence, although he said he did so “reluctantly.”

Kegler, who appeared in court with a full beard and wearing glasses, apologized to deputies in attendance at the hearing once he was given the chance to speak.

He will also serve a term at Community Alternatives of Casper, a nine-month alternative to imprisonment. The program requires inmates to hold jobs and pay rent while they stay at the facility.

An avid hunter, Kegler will not be allowed to handle or possess firearms as a result of the felony conviction. Kegler will also be tested for drugs and alcohol at least five times a month for the entirety of his probation.

Andrew Sears, who represented Kegler, said in court Wednesday that his client had been in a drunken blackout on the night of the incident and still does not remember pointing the AR-15 at deputies.

He said Kegler had not “had a drop to drink” since the incident.

A Natrona County Sheriff’s Office sergeant and corporal approached Kegler’s house near Casper/Natrona County International Airport at about 10 p.m., April 6, after someone reported the sound of gunfire, according to court documents. The corporal drove his patrol vehicle to the front of the house and shone his spotlight on the property.

The two deputies then walked toward the front door and saw a man — later identified as Kegler — crouching while holding a rifle, the documents state. According to the deputies, Kegler then pointed the rifle directly at the sergeant.

Deputies took cover and ordered Kegler to drop the gun. He obeyed and was taken into custody.

Prosecutor Dan Itzen told the court on Wednesday that five years of probation would allow authorities to supervise the defendant for longer than if he were sentenced to prison for a shorter term.

Itzen said if Kegler had gone to prison, he would probably serve about a year and a half.

Forgey said the impact to sheriff’s deputies was “legitimate,” but that he had been convinced by Itzen’s and Sears’s arguments.

After the sentence was handed down, Kegler left the courtroom as he had entered it: in street clothes, free from imprisonment and unaccompanied by a bailiff.

Follow crime reporter Shane Sanderson on Twitter @shanersanderson

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Shane Sanderson is a Star-Tribune reporter who primarily covers criminal justice. Sanderson is a proud University of Missouri graduate. Lately, he’s been reading Cormac McCarthy and cooking Italian food. He writes about his own life in his free time.

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