A Missoula convenience store clerk who got into an altercation with a store customer over a pack of cigarettes ended up choking the man and throwing him out of the store after the customer threatened to beat him up.

At 53 year-old David Stalling's justice court appearance on Monday afternoon, Deputy Missoula County Attorney Mac Bloom asked substitute Judge Nik Geranious for bail of $20,000.

"Your honor, this is a pretty serious charge," Bloom said. "The victim accused the defendant of taking his cigarettes, and when the customer threatened to beat him up, Mr. Stalling ended up strangling this guy, and he also admitted to having an anger problem."

The public defender at the jail had a more persuasive argument for the judge, asking for Stalling to be released on his own recognizance. .

"Your honor, I personally now the defendant," he said. "When I used to work at the National Wildlife Federation, he worked there. In fact, he is the former president of the National Wildlife Federation. He was a staffer for Senator Jon Tester for three years, was a combat service veteran for the United States Marine Corps, and has no criminal history."

Judge Geranious agreed, and released Stalling without bond. He will make another appearance in mid May on the felony charge of aggravated assault resulting in permanent or life threatening injury.

Stalling told the judge he no longer works for Noon's Convenience Store at 39th and Russell, where the altercation occurred.