A Montana man who admitted to raping his 12-year-old daughter was sentenced to only 60 days in jail, a sentence that drew outrage and calls for the judge’s impeachment. Now, after an exhaustive review of their legal options, prosecutors have decided not to appeal that decision, Reuters is reporting.
Back in October, as CBS News reported at the time, the 40-year-old man took a plea deal in which he pleaded guilty to raping his 12-year-old daughter. The man’s name is not being made public in order to protect the victim’s identity. Similarly, the details of the crime are not being made public, either.
Ordinarily, Montana law says that a conviction (or guilty plea) to child rape would automatically result in a mandatory 25-year-sentence. Prosecutors, however, wanted even more than that: 100 years plus 75 years suspended, essentially assuring that he would spend the rest of his days behind bars. Deputy Valley County Attorney Dylan Jensen said it was only fair, given the severity of the crime.
“A father repeatedly raped his 12-year-old daughter.”
However, Judge John McKeon didn’t see things that way: he sentenced the man to 60 days, plus 30 years suspended. He was also credit the 17 days he had spent behind bars before and during his trial, meaning he would only serve 43 days.
That decision was quickly met with widespread outrage. An online petition on Change.org was set up, calling for the judge’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. Judge McKeon did not uphold the responsibility of ensuring justice as he is required to in his elected position.”
Ironically, calls for the judge’s impeachment were moot, as he was scheduled to retire just a few weeks after handing down the controversial sentence.
McKeon defended his decision, citing some different factors. First, he said, Montana law allows judges to sentence child rapists to probation if the judge believes the offender would be better rehabilitated in the community instead of prison, which he apparently believed was the case here. Second, he said, the rapist had a solid support system on the outside, including his family and his church. Third, the victim’s mother and grandmother both asked for leniency. One person — it’s not clear who — told the court that, before raping his daughter, the man had been a “good father.” Another wrote that he was not a monster, just a man who had “made a mistake.”
The man’s attorney, public defender Casey Moore, similarly thought that the sentence was appropriate.
“I’m not asking that he be given a slap on the wrist. He did spend 17 days in jail and he did lose his job, and will be on supervision for the rest of his life.”
Further, Moore says, the man’s probation conditions are strict. He is not allowed to own guns or pornography, nor is he allowed to use the internet without the permission of both his parole officer and a sex-offender therapist. And if he steps out of line, even once, he’ll spend “significant time” behind bars.
Still, prosecutors sought every legal avenue they could to overturn the judge’s ruling and put the convicted rapist behind bars. However Eric Sell, a spokesman for Montana Attorney General Tim Fox, said that at the end of the day, there was nothing they could do.
“After a review of the case by the Montana Department of Justice, we could find no legal grounds on which to appeal the judge’s sentence.”
Do you think a 60-day jail sentence is an appropriate punishment for the rape of a 12-year-old?
[Featured Image by sebra/Shutterstock]