Citing an otherwise clean criminal record and an abusive childhood upbringing, a judge spared a prison sentence for a Sun Prairie man who fired gunshots at two random cars being driven on the Beltline last July.

Adam G. Stroede, 29, was sentenced Friday to 8½ years of probation, including a year in jail, by Dane County Circuit Judge David Flanagan.

Stroede pleaded guilty in January to first-degree reckless endangerment with a dangerous weapon and attempting to flee police for an episode early on July 4 on and around the Beltline.

Flanagan said the felonies warranted five years in prison and seven years of extended supervision, but he stayed that sentence and instead placed Stroede on probation.

During his first year of probation, Stroede must finish a GED, undergo alcohol and drug treatment and complete 75 hours of community service. Stroede was granted work-release privileges during his jail sentence and was also ordered to maintain sobriety after his release. If he violates the terms of his probation, Stroede could be sent to prison to serve the full five-year sentence.

Seeking four years in prison and five years of supervision, a prosecutor portrayed Stroede as a “powder keg” and unable to deal with his crumbling marriage.

Defense attorney Robert Nagel characterized Stroede as a man who set out to die that night — perhaps in a suicide by police officer — but recovered his will to live after a series of serious mistakes.

Flanagan called it “almost impossible to understate the random terror” of the incident, but Stroede benefited from a clean criminal record, nine years of continuous employment and reports of sobriety and compliance over nine months in the Dane County Bail Monitoring Program.

Though details are confidential and were not disclosed, Flanagan also repeatedly referenced Stroede’s tumultuous upbringing.

“Mr. Stroede, you had a horrific childhood,” Flanagan said. “It’s amazing that you have not been in more trouble, frankly, given what I have seen there. But still, this is a horrific crime.”

Stroede sat mostly quiet during his sentencing, breaking silence only briefly to apologize to the victims and to tell them he hoped they are doing OK.

He entered Friday’s sentencing facing up to 14 years in prison and another seven years of supervision.

According to a criminal complaint, a man was driving east on the Beltline when a pickup truck came up behind him and tailgated his car. He exited at Rimrock Road, because it was better lit than the Park Street/Highway 14 exit, and as he entered the ramp his driver-side rear window shattered. He told police he exited suddenly so the truck couldn’t follow him.

The man called police, who found evidence that the window had been shot out. After a description of the truck was broadcast, it was spotted on West Broadway in Monona, and a chase ensued back into the town of Madison. Stroede was arrested after he ran from the truck, according to the complaint.

Police were contacted later by a woman who said her car had also been shot at that night on the Beltline as she and her boyfriend were driving. Police found a gun, ammunition and beer in Stroede’s truck, the complaint states.

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