- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 25, 2014

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) - A Billings man with a long criminal record has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for endangerment after leading police on a chase in which he drove his pickup around barriers at a railroad crossing, causing an oncoming train to clip his vehicle.

District Judge Russell Fagg sentenced Victor Michael Johnson on Monday to 12 years in prison with two years suspended for two counts of felony criminal endangerment, The Billings Gazette (https://bit.ly/1dKfCwl ) reported.

Johnson, 61, was driving with a blood alcohol level of 0.125 percent and had three passengers in his pickup, prosecutors said. He was credited for time served for a misdemeanor DUI.

Johnson was arrested in January 2013 after a woman reported someone driving a pickup hit several parked vehicles and didn’t stop. A Yellowstone County sheriff’s deputy tried to pull Johnson over, but he eluded the officer by driving over the train tracks, authorities said.

The train hit the pickup truck then blocked the pursuing deputy. Johnson was arrested by a Montana Highway Patrol trooper a short time later.

Prosecutors said one of the passengers in Johnson’s pickup truck said she was scared for her safety and that he refused to let her out of the vehicle.

Deputy Yellowstone County Attorney Victoria Callender sought the 10-year sentence, arguing that was the minimum sentence for a subsequent persistent felony offender. Johnson has 17 felonies on his record, prosecutors said.

He also is required to register as a violent offender for a felony assault in Cascade County in 1992.

Defense attorney Penelope Strong sought a lesser sentence, arguing that because Johnson’s crimes were not violent, the 10-year mandatory sentence didn’t apply.

She also argued that Johnson cares for his adult son, who has a mental disability, and that he suffers from liver disease and hepatitis C.

Callender countered that Johnson’s son was one of the passengers in the pickup when it was hit by a train.

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Information from: The Billings Gazette, https://www.billingsgazette.com

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