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A man who stabbed his girlfriend last year while driving a car toward Downtown was sentenced Thursday to 10 years in prison — which could be the rest of his life — after pleading guilty to a reduced form of attempted homicide.

Tony M. Mason, 63, who was originally charged with attempted first-degree intentional homicide, pleaded guilty to attempted second-degree intentional homicide for the Nov. 10 stabbing. Heather Dubeau, 44, suffered serious injuries, which doctors said could have been fatal without immediate help.

The guilty plea was part of an agreement in which Mason’s lawyer, Terry Frederick, and Assistant District Attorney Allison Cogbill jointly asked for the 10-year prison sentence, followed by 10 years of extended supervision. Circuit Judge Ellen Berz said at first that she wanted to delay sentencing until after she received a pre-sentence investigation report from the state Department of Corrections, a typical measure in a serious crime like attempted homicide.

Mason faced up to 35 years of combined prison and extended supervision.

But Frederick talked her out of it, in part because Mason, who has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and a reduced life expectancy because of it, is eager to get out of the Dane County Jail and to another institution that might be mildly more comfortable, rather than wait in jail another two months for sentencing.

Various estimates, Frederick said, indicate that Mason has a high probability of dying during his 10-year sentence. At this point, Frederick said, Mason has only 64 percent of his lung capacity because of the disease, which leaves him easily winded. He is also set to be screened for lung cancer.

Frederick said it was a “head-scratcher” how Mason came to be someone with a long history of violent crime. Mason said that after graduating from high school in Evanston, Illinois, he attended American University in Washington, D.C., getting a degree in macro-marketing in 1976.

“You are an intelligent, articulate person,” Berz told Mason. “You are also violent. There’s no doubt you’re mild-mannered. You are certainly showing yourself to be a gentleman today. But it’s clear from your record that you can act violently and inhumanely to other people. You can, in a matter of a moment, switch and become nothing less than a cold-blooded killer, and the public must be protected.”

Dubeau told Berz that she and Mason love one another despite their volatile, “toxic” relationship, which was rife with abuse. “But at the same time,” she said, “he has to pay for his actions. You don’t go around and stab people.”

Mason apologized to Dubeau, thanked her for her forgiveness, and quoted Shakespeare.

“I can’t help but think of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, when he says, ‘Conscience doth make cowards of us all,’” Mason said.

It remains unclear why Mason lashed out at Dubeau. Frederick said the “toxic brew boiled over” when Mason felt that Dubeau was trying to convince him, on her behalf, to return stolen merchandise to a store for money. Dubeau said in court, however, that the stabbing happened during an argument over Mason’s jealousy.

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Ed Treleven is the courts reporter for the Wisconsin State Journal.