Flathead County Man Given Suspended Sentence For Threatening Neighbor With Sword

Man pressed sword against neighbor's neck over disagreement about a car

By Justin Franz

A Flathead County man was given a suspended sentence nearly a year after he drunkenly threatened his neighbor with a sword.

James Luther Smith appeared at a sentencing hearing before Judge Amy Eddy in Flathead County District Court on Sept. 28. Smith received a six-month suspended sentence to the Flathead County Detention Center for misdemeanor assault and a three-year suspended sentence to the Department of Corrections for felony failure to register as a violent offender. Both sentences will run concurrently.

According to court documents, Smith had gotten into an argument with a neighbor in November 2016 over a borrowed automobile. When the neighbor came to Smith’s apartment to talk about their issues, Smith opened the door with a sword in his hand and pressed it against the man’s neck.

The man was able to push the sword away and Smith dropped the weapon. The neighbor’s wife tried to grab the sword and Smith shoved and scratched her. The husband and wife eventually retreated to their home. Later they observed Smith pacing in the parking lot holding a different sword.

When Flathead County Sheriff deputies arrived, they found Smith to be “extremely intoxicated.” He was placed under arrest and charged with felony assault with a weapon.

In February 2017, Smith was charged with failure to register as a violent offender, a requirement stemming from a 2000 aggravated assault conviction in Missoula County. Smith initially pleaded not guilty to all of the charges.

In June, Smith, his attorney Lane Bennett and prosecutors crafted a plea agreement where the defendant would plead guilty to an amended charge of misdemeanor assault and felony failure to register as a violent offender. During Smith’s hearing, attorneys said the suspended sentence would give Smith the opportunity to continue receiving group treatment for alcohol abuse.