Calling witness tampering and assaulting a federal officer an attack on the justice system, a federal judge on Wednesday ordered a Billings man convicted of those crimes to spend more than 16 years in prison.
“I believe our system of justice can’t tolerate this type of behavior,” said Chief U.S. District Judge Richard Cebull as he sentenced Michael Aaron Stuker, 26, to a total of 16 years and eight months for two convictions.
A jury in February found Stuker guilty of witness tampering and possessing a firearm in furtherance of a crime for a July confrontation with Ray Bosick, a Billings man who testified against convicted drug trafficker Joseph Dean Lira.
In a separate trial a few weeks later, a jury also convicted Stuker of assaulting U.S. Deputy Marshal Daquiri Tofte for ramming his car into the officer’s vehicle as Stuker was trying flee from arrest. The jury acquitted Stuker of a second count of assault involving U.S. Deputy Marshal Timothy Hornung.
The assault sentencing turned emotional for both Stuker and the prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jim Seykora.
Seykora, in an unusual display of emotion, choked up as he spoke to the judge about law enforcement officers who carry a badge and protect “you and me.” After a long pause in which Seykora struggled for composure, Cebull called for a break.
When the hearing resumed, Seykora mentioned law enforcement officers who have died or been injured while on the job.
Seykora urged Cebull to “send the message to law enforcement to keep up the good work, don’t lose faith, arrest these people and do it by the book so justice is served.”
When it was his turn to speak, Stuker started crying, and said, “I wasn’t trying to hurt nobody. I apologize to Daq.”
Cebull sentenced Stuker to 70 months on the assault, and an additional 130 months for witness tampering.
For the witness tampering conviction, Cebull imposed 46 months, and added a mandatory consecutive seven years for use of a firearm.
At Stuker’s trial, Bosick testified that Stuker showed up at his apartment with three others, stuck a gun in his face and warned him about saying anything about the Lira case.