Montana Appeals 30 Day Rape Sentence

There is a lot of understandable outrage over the Montana rape case where the rapist got a 30 day sentence. However, most of the commentary overlooks important facts of the case.

The defendant is a 47 year old former teacher, the victim was a 14 year old student of his. The two had consensual sex. Because of the girl’s age, she could not, of course, legally consent. The teacher was charged with what amounts to statutory rape. Tragically, the girl later killed herself. Partially due to this, the prosecutor agreed to dismiss the case if the defendant admitted guilt and enrolled in a treatment program.

This would have been the end of the case. However, the defendant was kicked out of the program for having unsupervised visits with minors. It turns out they were family members. The prosecution revived the case. The judge decided the violations were minor, and since the defendant was classified as low risk to re-offend, he sentenced him to 30 days jail.

This would also probably have been the end, except that the judge made highly offensive statements regarding the victim. He said she was older than her chronological age, and as in control of the situation as the defendant. This sparked widespread outrage and led to calls for a much longer sentence. The prosecution now wants a 20 year sentence.

While I understand the outrage, in my opinion the prosecution’s current request is also outrageous. They offered the earlier deal, and the violation by the defendant is very technical. It would be a violation of due process, in my opinion, to now ramp the sentence up to 20 years. Any current sentence has to reflect the violation, not the original allegation. I think the judge got the sentence right, even if his comments were very wrong.