A Montana father convicted this month of raping his 12-year-old daughter will spend just 43 days in jail for the crime. Now the judge, who could have sentenced the man to up to 100 years in prison, has come under fire for letting him off easy.
On Oct. 4, Valley County District Judge John McKeon sentenced the 40-year-old convicted rapist, who BuzzFeed News is choosing not to name in order to protect the victim's privacy, to 30 years in prison but suspended each year of the sentence. Instead, the judge ordered the man to serve 60 days in jail, with a credit of 17 days already served, and register as a sex offender.
That sentence is not the deal that prosecutors laid out in a plea agreement agreed to by the man.
Deputy Valley County Attorney Dylan Jensen asked the court to sentence the man to 100 years in prison with 75 years suspended. He would spend 25 years in prison, aligning with Montana’s state sentencing guidelines. In the plea agreement, the man admitted to raping his daughter one time in exchange for charges on two other counts of rape being dropped.
“A father repeatedly raped his 12-year-old daughter,” Jensen said during the sentencing hearing.
The Glasgow Courier reports that the man’s wife walked in on him and his daughter during one of the assaults.
The man’s attorney, public defender Casey Moore, argued there was more than one way to hold him accountable in this case.
“I’m not asking that he be given a slap on the wrist,” Moore said. “He did spend 17 days in jail and he did lose his job.” The attorney added that he will be “on supervision for the rest of his life.”
Michael Sullivan, a licensed clinical social worker, testified at the sentencing that he believed the man would benefit from programs in the community designed to rehabilitate him. Sullivan added that he believed that the man was a low risk for recidivism in the future.
In the end, Judge McKeon decided to forego sentencing the man to prison time, citing the support of his family and others in the community. The victim’s mother and grandmother were among those who wrote letters on his behalf asking that he be allowed to stay in the community, the Glasgow Courier reports.
In explaining his ruling, McKeon described his ruling as “quite restrictive” and “quite rigorous.”
Jensen said that he was shocked and quite disappointed by the judge’s decision.
The sentence in the Montana rape case has generated outrage online. At the time of this writing, more than 46,000 people have signed a Change.org petition calling for Judge McKeon’s impeachment.
“60 days in prison with a suspended 30-year sentence does not match the crime and fails to acknowledge the horrors the victim had to endure,” the petition reads.
“Judge McKeon did not uphold the responsibility of ensuring justice as he is required to in his elected position. The judge provided a number of reasons his horrible decision. None of them justify the sentence that was handed down.”
McKeon, who's been a state judge for 22 years, is set to retire next month.
Now McKeon has defended his sentence in a new letter to the AP this week.
In the letter, McKeon says that in weighing his sentence, state law allowed him to consider the results of a psychosexual evaluation that said the 40-year-old could be safely treated and supervised in the community. He says the prosecution never contested this evaluation.
McKeon criticized news coverage of the case, saying that reports ignore this exception to the mandatory 25-year sentence if an evaluation determines treatment “affords a better opportunity for rehabilitation of the offender and for the ultimate protection of the victim and society.”
McKeon wrote that this exception is one of Montana’s stated sentencing policies “to encourage and provide opportunities for an offender’s self-improvement, rehabilitation, and reintegration back into a community.”
He also referenced the letters from the victim’s mother and grandmother asking that the man not be sent to prison.