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A man who fired a handgun outside a downtown Billings bar during a confrontation was sentenced Wednesday in District Court.

Keith Sentell Harold, 31, was ordered to serve 10 years at Montana State Prison, with three years suspended, for felony assault with a weapon.

Judge Russell Fagg ordered Harold to serve a concurrent six-month jail sentence for misdemeanor criminal mischief. The judge also ordered Harold to pay $1,226 in restitution for damage to a window hit by the gunfire.

Harold apologized before he was sentenced, but he had a hard time answering questions from the judge about why he resorted to gun violence during a scuffle outside a bar.

"You could have walked away from this," Fagg told Harold, who has several misdemeanors on his record but no prior felony convictions.

Harold told the the judge that he had owned the handgun only for a week, but said he could not remember where he got the gun or how much he paid for it. Harold agreed that he doesn't have a lot of money because his only income is from disability payments.

Deputy County Attorney Ed Zink requested a sentence of 10 years at the state prison. He argued that the prison sentence was justified because the community is weary of gun violence.

Defense attorney Fred Snodgrass asked for a sentence to the state Department of Corrections, saying Harold would benefit from programs not offered at the state prison. Harold is illiterate and has "educational deficiencies," Snodgrass said. 

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Harold was charged for an incident outside Rowdy's Bar on North Broadway in August of last year.

The victim, 28-year-old Marcus Young, told police he and a friend were outside the bar when they saw Harold hitting a woman. The men intervened and took Harold to the ground when Harold threatened to shoot them.

The men held Harold down and frisked him, looking for a firearm. When no gun was found, the men complied when a bouncer told them to let go of Harold. The bouncer then told Harold to leave.

Harold walked away but returned a few minutes later with a handgun and fired a single shot toward Young. The bullet missed Young and struck a window at the MSU Billings Downtown office.

Harold was arrested at the scene. He has remained in the county jail on a $100,000 bond since his arrest.   

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State courts reporter for the Billings Gazette.