A controversial 60-day prison sentence for a man who confessed to repeatedly raping his 12-year-old daughter will not be appealed by prosecutors in Montana. The "reprehensible" jail sentence has stirred public outrage for its perceived excessive leniency.
Montana mandates a minimum 25-year jail term sentence for child rape, but the judge in the case of the 40-year-old who pleaded guilty to the crime Oct. 4 ruled the sex offender should only be imprisoned for 60 days, followed by probation.
"We believe the judge used poor discretion in his ruling, and find the ruling reprehensible, but his ruling was legal under state law," Eric Sell, a representative for Montana Attorney General Tim Fox, said in an email, Reuters reports.
The punishment handed out by District Judge John McKeon led to an organized effort to impeach him -- however, the judge retired from the bench in November.
McKeon used a legal exception to avoid implementing most of the 30-year sentence he gave the sex offender. The judge took heed of a court-appointed evaluator's recommendation to provide out-of-prison treatment and rehabilitation to the offender while protecting the victim, the Daily Mail reports.
The rapist is not being named in order to protect the identity of his victim.
So long as the rapist completes probation, receives sex offender treatment, has no contact with minors and fulfills other restrictions, his 30-year sentence is suspended, the judge ruled, CNN reports. The man was given credit for the 17 days in prison he had served before being sentenced.
The rest of the sex offender's jail time must be served within six months, but the requirement can be met in two-day jail periods at a time, the judge had stated.
McKeon took into account the fact the man did not possess a felony record, had a job, and had also shown church and community support. No input had been heard by the judge from the victim herself or from any advocate of the victim.
The judge further considered letters written by the victim's mother and grandmother that urged community-based treatment for the rapist instead of prison time.
The mother had walked in on the father raping the child, court records state.
"I do not feel 25 years in prison is necessarily the best way for the defendant to pay for what he has done," the victim's mother said in a statement. "He made a horrible choice. He needs help – not to spend 25 years locked up."
The girl's grandmother also sought a lenient sentence in order to keep the man in the lives of his children.
"What he did to my granddaughter was horrible, and he should face consequences," she said at the sentencing hearing for the violator. "And I certainly never want it to happen again to anyone."
"But his children, especially his sons, will be devastated if their dad is no longer part of their lives."
Legislation closing the loophole that allows for the sentencing exception has been moved forward by Assistant Attorney General Dan Guzynski.