Submitted on Briefs: January 16, 2019
FROM: District Court of the Eighteenth Judicial District, In
and For the County of Gallatin, Cause No. DC 16-54B Honorable
Mike Salvagni, Presiding Judge.
Appellant: Chad Wright, Appellate Defender, Kristen L.
Peterson, Assistant Appellate Defender, Helena, Montana
Appellee: Timothy C. Fox, Montana Attorney General, Tammy A.
Hinderman, Assistant Attorney General, Helena, Montana
Lambert, Gallatin County Attorney, Bozeman, Montana
Pursuant to Section I, Paragraph 3(c), Montana Supreme Court
Internal Operating Rules, this case is decided by memorandum
opinion and shall not be cited and does not serve as
precedent. Its case title, cause number, and disposition
shall be included in this Court's quarterly list of
noncitable cases published in the Pacific Reporter and
Defendant Donald Ryan Ostrander appeals from the judgment and
sentence of the Eighteenth Judicial District Court, Gallatin
County, finding him guilty of Assault with a Weapon, in
violation of § 45-5-213, MCA. We affirm.
On March 2, 2016, the State charged Ostrander with two counts
of felony Assault with a Weapon: (1) for stabbing Michael
Goodman with a knife, and (2) for cutting Valen Murnion with
a knife. Ostrander pled not guilty and gave notice of his
intent to rely on a defense of justified use of force.
Ostrander did not dispute that he used a knife against
Murnion and Goodman but argued he reasonably used the knife
to defend himself against their ambush.
On October 25-28, 2016, the District Court presided over a
four-day jury trial. During the trial, witnesses described
the following events: in June 2015, Murnion and two other men
got into a physical altercation with Ostrander. The three men
came to Ostrander's apartment, following a dispute over
money, and one of the men threatened Ostrander. Ostrander
testified the man told him, "[y]ou're lucky
we're not packing," and "[n]ext time we come
back we'll be strapped." Ostrander interpreted this
as a statement that they would bring guns to their next
encounter. A neighbor called the police. Police interviewed
Ostrander and the other men, but none of the parties involved
pressed charges. Murnion testified he did not remember the
incident. In November 2015, Ostrander was out to dinner at a
local restaurant with his girlfriend, Ashley Cornelius.
Murnion was seated at a table nearby, and Ostrander testified
Murnion began making lewd remarks about Cornelius and
boasting to his friends about beating up Ostrander.
Surveillance footage from the restaurant's security
camera showed Ostrander got up from his table, walked toward
Murnion, and punched Murnion in the face. Murnion did not
fight back or retaliate. Murnion later reported the incident
to police and ultimately pressed charges against
In December 2015, Ostrander and Goodman were living in the
same apartment complex in Bozeman. Ostrander and Cornelius
lived in an upstairs unit, while Goodman and five others,
including Goodman's girlfriend, Summer Walraven, lived
downstairs. Ostrander and Goodman did not know each other
well but had a few run-ins, mostly over parking spaces.
Goodman and Murnion were childhood friends.
On December 18, 2015, the night of the incident, Ostrander
testified he came home from work to find the downstairs
tenants' cars parked in his spots. Ostrander testified he
saw Walraven outside and told her, "You need to stop
fucking parking in my spots," and, Walraven testified he
angrily said, "Can you just move the fucking
truck," before going upstairs. Walraven's mother
then knocked on Ostrander's door and confronted him about
how he had spoken to Walraven. Ostrander testified Walraven
yelled threats that Goodman was going to "kick
[Ostrander's] ass." Later, Goodman called Ostrander,
and the two argued over the phone. Goodman testified that he
called Murnion and said that his neighbor was "being
hostile," and that Goodman might "need some
backup" in case anything went wrong, so Murnion came to
Shortly thereafter, Goodman knocked on Ostrander's door.
Ostrander answered the door with a knife in his hand. The two
men agreed the best way to resolve the conflict was a
one-on-one fight, but Ostrander told Goodman he was afraid of
being jumped by the group of people who had been hanging
around the downstairs apartment. Goodman testified he told
Ostrander not to worry. Ostrander then gave Cornelius the
knife to hold, and both Ostrander and Cornelius went
Once downstairs, Ostrander and Goodman squared off to fight.
Ostrander testified he thought that roughly ten other people
encircled him, and he recognized Murnion leading the pack.
Ostrander testified it did not appear that Murnion was armed.
Nevertheless, Ostrander grabbed the knife from Cornelius.
Ostrander testified he ran at Murnion but stopped short of
attacking him. Ostrander testified Murnion then grabbed a
glass bottle, swung it at Ostrander, and hit Ostrander twice
on the head, eventually breaking the bottle. Ostrander and
Murnion then began fighting. Ostrander testified that,
several people jumped on him, including Goodman, and wrestled
him to the ground. Ostrander testified that, believing he was
outnumbered and would be "beat[en] to death [by] . . .
everybody," he stabbed ...