Sept. 23 — Judge Robert Allison of Flathead County District Court on Thursday sentenced Tanner Doyle White to 35 years in Montana state prison for the Jan. 17 shooting of 42-year-old Luke Simpson in Evergreen.
Noting his displeasure with aspects of the plea deal between White’s attorneys and prosecutors, Allison credited the 22-year-old for 244 days serving and aligned his prison stint with previous Glacier County verdicts. Among other criticisms, Allison took issue with crediting White for his time in the county jail, focusing on cases of bad behavior at the detention center.
Deputy Attorney General John Donovan noted that, as part of the plea deal, his office had chosen not to press charges as a result of any of those incidents.
“It’s probably one of the worst I’ve ever seen,” Allison said of White’s behavior before handing out the sentence.
He urged White to behave better in the state prison.
“If you go to jail and you act like that there…I can guarantee you that you won’t be paroled in seven or eight years,” Allison said.
White, who pleaded guilty in July to reducing intentional murder, apologized to the court for his role in Simpson’s murder and later acknowledged his poor performance in county jail. White was arrested several days after Simpson’s death during a traffic stop initiated by Columbia Falls police officers. Prior to White’s arrest, Flathead County Sheriff Brian Heino said the investigation had uncovered several vehicles of interest, one of which was connected to White.
White later admitted to shooting Simpson and telling investigators that his fiancée had dated Simpson prior to the deadly showdown, according to court documents. After following Simpson to his home on Flathead Drive, White shot him with a 9mm handgun, court documents said.
According to court documents, authorities recovered shell casings from a 9mm cannon in the driveway of the house.
Attorney Sean Hinchey, a member of White’s defense team, told the court his client was “concerned for the well-being of his fiancée.” In his statement to the court, White reiterated Hinchey’s assessment but acknowledged that his actions were unjustified.
“I think about it every day,” White said. “I can’t change the past, but I can move forward.”
He said he previously complained about a perceived increase in crime in Flathead County. He was “embarrassed” to be a part of it now, he said.
Whatever White’s reasoning, he committed a violent crime, Donovan said while recommending the 35-year prison term. He pointed out that at the time of the shooting, White was not allowed to possess firearms due to previous crimes.
“This violent history needs a verdict that … protects society from Mr. White,” he said.
In particular, Allison took offense at White’s possession and use of firearms while on parole. Convicted felons who use firearms to commit new crimes endanger gun owners everywhere, the judge said.
“Then all politicians want to punish law-abiding people who have guns for the things you do,” Allison said. “You’re not just hurting yourself or Simpson or his family… you’re ruining things for people who come after you or people who haven’t committed any crimes at all.”
News editor Derrick Perkins can be reached at 758-4430 or [email protected]