Joseph Sterling Mueller

Joseph Sterling Mueller is seen at Bar IX in video retrieved by the Bozeman Police Department. 

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Gallatin County prosecutors have accused a California man of sexually assaulting a woman after a night of drinking at downtown Bozeman bars. The victim used a gun to fend off her attacker, telling him, “I don’t want to shoot you, but I will.”

Joseph Sterling Mueller is charged with felony sexual assault. He appeared via video Thursday in Gallatin County Justice Court where his bail was set at $250,000.

On June 10, a woman told a Bozeman detective that two nights prior Mueller forced her to kiss him after she was giving him a ride home, court documents allege. The woman said she tried to pull away, but Mueller grabbed her neck and told her, “You’re going to do what the (expletive) I tell you to do” and continued kissing and groping her.

She and friends were at a downtown bar when Mueller introduced himself to one of the friends and joined the group for drinks. She said they spent about an hour there before they all went to another bar.

The woman didn’t talk much with Mueller, but said he was friendly and talked about politics, guns and how he had just moved from California to Bozeman. At the end of the night, the woman offered Mueller a ride home.

She told a detective that she and Mueller were driving for up to 30 minutes because Mueller couldn’t remember where he lived. Police said in charging documents that the woman reported feeling “creeped out and pissed off” and eventually stopped the car and asked Meuller to get out.

Meuller then grabbed her neck and hair and attempted to kiss her as she tried puling away, according to charging documents. The woman said Mueller did this a few times and groped and choked her with both of his hands around her neck, court documents say.

Police said in charging documents the woman thought Mueller was trying to kill or rape her.

The woman told detectives she grabbed her gun inside her car, pointed it at Mueller’s legs and told him, “I don’t want to shoot you, but I will.” She then yelled for about a minute before Mueller got out of her car and she was able to leave.

Bozeman police issued a news release days after the incident seeking information on Mueller.

Several hours after the release, a local hotel owner reported Mueller was a guest on the night of the assault. The owner said Mueller had checked out early the morning after the incident and had not been seen since.

Authorities subsequently arrested Mueller in southwest Michigan a few weeks later. He remained in the county jail later Thursday.

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Freddy Monares can be reached at or at 406-582-2630.

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