KENNEBEC-A Presho man charged with attempted murder in October after shooting a man in the leg was sentenced Thursday afternoon to 24 months in prison.
Mark Cook, 56, was convicted of the reduced charge of aggravated assault, to which he pleaded guilty but mentally ill in April. He was given credit for the 223 days he's served in the Brule County Jail since his arrest, and he will likely be parole eligible before the end of the year.
Judge John Brown said that while he took into account testimony from a psychologist, he decided to impose prison time as both a form of retribution for the offense and a warning to the community.
Cook was arrested Oct. 26 after law enforcement found a man with a gunshot wound in his leg at a farm facility south of Presho, where both men worked at the time.
According to statements made in court prior to sentencing, Cook and the victim got into a fight the night before the shooting. The victim said he had gotten angry because Cook had been harassing his son and making racist comments about people they worked with.
According to Cook's plea agreement, on the morning of Oct. 26, Cook said something along the lines of "intimidate me now; threaten my life now" to the victim, then fired a shotgun toward the ground, hitting the victim's leg.
Cook said he had only meant to intimidate the victim, not to shoot him.
"All my life, I've tried to help people, not hurt people," an emotional Cook said. "... I put a dark cloud over our town."
The victim underwent 13 surgeries and spent about four weeks in the hospital. More than seven months after the shooting, he still walked with a limp at the time of sentencing.
"Recovery's been a long road, and I don't know that it's ever going to get much better than it is," the victim said.
Rapid City-based psychologist Dewey Ertz said that based on his evaluation, at the time of the shooting, Cook was experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder with dissociative symptoms, depressive disorder and acute stress disorder.
Ertz also testified that he found Cook to be at low risk of reoffending and said that the mental health treatment plan he recommended for Cook would not be available in prison.
"I think he has a great deal of remorse," Ertz said.
Prior to sentencing, two of Cook's longtime friends and a man with whom he's worked in the past testified that the October incident was out of character for Cook and that his crime was likely in reaction to prior intimidation from the victim.
Witnesses said if Cook were given probation, they would provide him with a place to live, employment, support and transportation for mental health treatment.
While Cook's attorney, Robert Konrad, requested probation, Lyman County State's Attorney Steve Smith said this was a rare instance in which he'd argue for a sentence, rather than deferring to the court's discretion.
"What he's done here was not only irresponsible. It was reprehensible," Smith said.
Restitution for the victim's medical bills in the amount of $23,741 has been requested, but Brown granted a request by Konrad to keep restitution open for 30 days in order to verify medical costs. Cook was ordered to pay $3,101.40 for a psychological evaluation and $106.50 in court costs.