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20-year sentence in Billings stabbing case

BILLINGS – A man who pleaded no contest to two felony charges after six people were injured in a stabbing at a 2011 Halloween party in Billings was surprised Friday when a state judge sentenced him to 20 years in prison.

A plea agreement had called for Samuel Pape Bettie, 24, to be sentenced to concurrent 15-year terms with five years suspended for aggravated assault and possessing methamphetamine, or 10 years in prison.

But District Judge Mary Jane Knisley told Bettie that since he arrived in Billings two years ago he had embarked on a “crime spree of violence and drugs and nothing good,” and ordered consecutive sentences.

“Your honor, did I hear you correctly?” defense attorney Gregory Paskell asked. “Did you say consecutive on both counts?”

Knisley confirmed that was the sentence.

Deputy Yellowstone County Attorney Juli Pierce said she made the plea agreement because five victims would not cooperate with law enforcement, the Billings Gazette reported. Only one victim, who was stabbed in the shoulder and has limited use of her arm, was willing to testify, Pierce said.

The stabbings happened at a Halloween party where numerous people were underage, drinking alcohol and using illegal drugs, Pierce said. All six victims required surgery.

Court records say Bettie was thrown out of the party when he made an unwelcome advance toward a woman. Prosecutors said he pulled a knife outside and stabbed the victims.

A few months before the stabbings, Bettie was allegedly driving a van when his friend, Robert Zlahn, fired a shot during a downtown confrontation. No one was injured.

Knisley sentenced Zlahn on Dec. 7 to 20 years in prison for felony assault with a weapon.

Bettie and Zlahn, who both lived in Liberia before moving to the United States, moved to Billings from Minnesota together in late 2010 or early 2011, court records said.



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