Prosecution in neighbor gun dispute deferred

The Sweet Grass County attorney filed paperwork late last month to defer prosecution of a Reed Point man charged with felony criminal endangerment.

Ronald Mark Terenzio, 77, was charged last spring following an April 29 incident during which he was accused of firing multiple shots from a .44 Desert Eagle toward his neighbor, Bob Straight.

Terenzio pleaded not guilty to the charge in May. 

Three months later, County Attorney Pat Dringman filed a petition to revoke Terenzio’s release following an alleged altercation with another neighbor, Maggi Dunakin, involving bear spray. 

Dunakin was charged with misdemeanor assault as a result of that incident for allegedly striking Terenzio with a vodka bottle. However, Terenzio’s conditions of release from the endangerment charge outlined that he was not to carry bear spray or any other dangerous weapons. Terenzio admitted to violating his conditions and was again released on the $100,000 bond he previously posted.

Dunakin pleaded not guilty in the Sweet Grass County Justice Court assault case in September. Her trial is scheduled for 9 a.m. April 19 with a trial confirmation hearing April 6.

The paperwork for deferred prosecution in Terenzio’s case was filed in the Sixth Judicial District Court Jan. 29. It outlines that in making the agreement, Dringman, acting as the State of Montana, took Terenzio’s prior record, work history and the circumstances surrounding the offense into consideration and determined that the “interests of justice can be satisfied without obtaining a formal conviction in this matter.”

As part of the agreement, Terenzio waved his right to a speedy trial as well as his right to assert a statute of limitations defense for the charge.

The deferral is set to last for two years, during which Terenzio will be required to pay a $500 assessment to the Sweet Grass Community Foundation and not incur any new violations or violate any federal, state, county or municipal criminal or civil laws. 

He will also be required to complete a firearms safety course approved by Sheriff Dan Tronrud, undergo an anger management evaluation and follow any recommendations stemming from that evaluation. Terenzio is also not to possess any firearms until he successfully completes the safety course.

“The defendant fully understands and accepts the responsibilities of the deferred prosecution agreement, including that if he satisfactorily abides by the terms and conditions of this deferred prosecution, the prosecution will not be resumed against him,” the document reads.

The agreement also states that the Sweet Grass County Attorney’s Office has sole discretion to determine the question of satisfactory compliance with the terms and may at any time resume prosecution if satisfactory compliance is not met.

Dringman said Feb. 8 that he believed the deferral was an appropriate resolution based on the facts of the case, adding that Terenzio would have been entitled to a deferred imposition of sentence based on his lack of criminal history. There isn’t a huge difference between a deferred imposition of sentence and a deferred prosecution, Dringman said. Compliance with the terms of both dispositions result in the charge not becoming a part of an individual’s permanent record.

“I think the facts of the case are that he recklessly discharged his firearm in the air,” Dringman said, adding that the incident happened during an uncomfortable interaction with a neighbor, which resulted in Terenzio feeling unsafe. “I think he realized it was not a safe thing to do, the way he fired the weapon.”

Dringman said the agreement satisfies the remedies sought by the state, primarily the firearms and counseling requirements. Terenzio will learn to safely handle a firearm and better manage his anger, he said.

“The remedies the state wanted, the state is getting,” Dringman said. “He needs to better manage his emotions and his anger … and that’s what he has to do.”

Tronrud said Straight received a letter to inform him of the deferral, which was not well taken by the surrounding neighbors.

To read the rest of the story, including Dringman's comments on the role of public opinion and outcry in the judicial system, pick up the Feb. 11 edition of the Pioneer or subscribe to our e-edition. Current subscribers are provided complimentary access to the e-edition with registration.

By Lindsey Erin Kroskob / Pioneer Editor

Pioneer File photo of Ronald Terenzio



F----ing wrong.  The whole situation is wrong.  This guy should be in prison.


Stevens hill has crazy mo foes out there. You can't mind your own business cuz the crazy people won't let you, and try to get u involved in there B S. Who in a normal state of mind does this ???? Like driving around with a big sign which a noose in the back of there truck?? What a bunch of IDIOTS. It's a embarrassment to the community and the town . Obviously there must b a mental issue going on. LIKE I SAID CRAZY. Something bad is going to happen if thing keep escalating like they are out on Stevens hill.

Something bad did happen

This lunatic and the corrupt officials who have been protecting him from prosecution, are directly responsible for the deaths of my brother and his wife.

Ray, I am so very sorry for the loss of Jim and Maggi. I didn't know them personally, but have spoken about metalsmithing with Jim a few times via Facebook and really loved his work. I definitely feel that if the prosecution hadn't been deferred, your brother and his wife would still be alive. Such a tragic loss.

Well, the fat is in the fire now. Somebody should be laying awake nights.
Such a tragedy.

Horse Shit!

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