A judge on Tuesday sentenced a Casper man to a half-decade in prison for shooting a gun in the air near his ex-girlfriend’s house.

Eugene Banks, 28, will serve prison sentences of five to 10 years at the same time for two aggravated assault convictions. During Tuesday morning’s court hearing, Banks asked Judge Kerri Johnson to grant him probation. The judge declined to do so, ordering the prison sentence and citing Banks’ prior criminal history.

In June, Banks told Johnson he threatened two people in March by firing a gun toward the woman’s house. At the same June hearing, Banks pleaded guilty to the two felonies. Prosecutors dropped three other charges in the case and agreed to limit their sentencing arguments to a total of seven to 10 years imprisonment in exchange for the pleas.

On Tuesday, Assistant District Attorney Kevin Taheri asked for the maximum allowed by the deal. In a brief statement the prosecutor said the extreme nature of the crime and Banks’ criminal history called for the imprisonment.

“Your honor, I believe the defendant’s record has earned him the top end of the cap,” Taheri said, in reference to Banks’ history, which includes prior felony convictions of drug possession and perjury.

Court-appointed defense attorney Marty Scott then spoke, disputing Taheri’s characterization, saying the prior convictions were mitigated in part by Banks’ young age — 17 years — at the time of the possession conviction. The perjury conviction, Scott said, came from Banks giving a false name. He then appeared in court and committed to the lie.

Banks’ criminal record doesn’t indicate a violent past, his lawyer said. The terms of the plea deal allowed for the Scott to ask for any sentence he deemed appropriate. He asked for probation.

The public defender asked Johnson to sentence Banks to three years of probation in lieu of a nine- to 10-year sentence. Scott asked the judge to consider a two- to four-year prison sentence if probation were out of the question.

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Banks then spoke. He said during prior prison terms he had not been able to receive appropriate treatment for substance misuse and mental health issues. Banks noted that he has been receiving dual-diagnosis treatment locally. Were he imprisoned, Banks said, he would no longer be able to do so.

Reading from creased papers, Banks said he wanted to repair the harm he’d done.

“Those papers of judgement don’t contain my character or personality,” Banks said.

When Banks reached the bottom of the page, he handed the papers to Scott, who folded them and tucked them into the front pocket of Banks’ red jail apparel. The two men again faced the judge.

Johnson said that Banks’ criminal history — which legally precluded him from even possessing the gun he fired — weighed heavily in her decision. The judge noted prosecutors had decided not to pursue sentencing enhancements that could have greatly increased his time behind bars.

Johnson then ordered Banks’ imprisonment, while telling him he’d have treatment programs available to him in prison.

“You can make your life what you want it to be,” Johnson said. “But you gotta put in the work to do that.”

Banks turned and shook hands with his lawyer. The courtroom emptied. Banks walked through a side door, toward the Department of Corrections.

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Crime and Courts Reporter

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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