Judge rejects plea deal for man accused of shooting 2J

Philip Robert McClendon

A judge on Wednesday rejected a plea deal for a man charged with a shooting and two separate counts of partner/family member assault in 2020.

Phillip Robert McClendon, 31, was charged in March 2020 in the 2018 shooting death of another man in the parking lot of 2J’s Shopping Center following an extensive investigation by the Great Falls Police Department. McClendon initially claimed the shooting was in self-defense.

Investigators said the victim had seven gunshot wounds: one to each side of the jaw/neck, one to the upper right shoulder, one to the back, two to his right arm and one to the right abdomen. McClendon was charged with aggravated assault and battery with a weapon.

On April 27, 2020, while on bond in the shooting case, McClendon allegedly grabbed a woman by the throat and pushed her against a wall during a domestic disturbance. He was charged with felony partner/family member assault (PFMA) and misdemeanor battery. By then he already had two other PFMA offense convictions in 2012 and 2016.

McClendon was on bond in both of his other cases on July 24, 2020, when he allegedly threatened a woman’s life by brandishing a knife, holding a gun to her face and choking her multiple times. He was charged with two counts of assault with a weapon, PFMA felony, partner/family member strangulation, tampering with a communication device and unlawful restraint.

Wednesday’s global plea deal would have sentenced McClendon to the Department of Corrections for 17 years with 15 suspended for one count of assault with a weapon from the third case. All other charges would have been dismissed. McClendon has already served more than two years in prison and could have been released if the judge had accepted the deal.

As part of the sentence, McClendon would have been admitted to the Veterans Treatment Court, a program he had already graduated from once before these cases.

Cascade County Circuit Judge David Grubich noted that the victim in the case strongly disagreed with the plea deal and said he had concerns about the level of violence McClendon has shown.

Both the prosecutor and McClendon’s attorney expressed that the Veterans Treatment Court was appropriate to give McClendon the best chance at rehabilitation while maintaining his supervision in the community.

Grubitz disagreed.

Before rejecting the deal, Grubitz said, “‘Egregious’ does not credit the wrong that was done in this case. This is not simple assault. This amounts to torture, which is what he is alleging in this case.”

Grubitz pointed out that McClendon’s earlier graduation from the Veterans Treatment Court did not prevent him from reoffending. He said he raised doubts about whether the sentence was appropriate.

McClendon can now choose to withdraw his plea and negotiate a new deal or take all three of his cases to trial.

This article originally appeared in the Great Falls Tribune: Judge rejects plea deal for man accused of shooting 2J

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