(MTN News-GLASGOW) The judge who sparked public outrage for sentencing a Glasgow man on Wednesday to probation for raping a 12-year-old girl defended his decision on Friday.
Valley County District Court Judge John McKeon cited the opinion of a sex offender treatment specialist, as well as testimony from witnesses, as reasons for sparing Martin Blake, 40, from prison.
Blake was sentenced to 30 years in the Montana State Prison with all of the time suspended.
Michael Sullivan, the director of the South Central Treatment Associates based in Billings, evaluated Blake and offered his professional opinion of the defendant.
Sullivan testified at the sentencing hearing that Blake would benefit from community-based treatment, and it would be best that he start and finish his treatment in the same program, according to McKeon.
Valley County Attorney Dylan Jensen said he was disappointed that the judge did not follow the plea agreement in the case, where Jensen recommended a sentence of 100 years to the Montana State Prison with 75 years suspended.
McKeon said in his press release that Jensen was acutely aware of the possibility of a lesser sentence based on Sullivan’s report.
“And yet (he) did not offer conflicting evidence,” said the judge in the press release.
McKeon noted that one of Montana’s sentencing policies is to “encourage and provide opportunities for an offender’s self-improved, rehabilitation and reintegration back into a community.”
The judge said that it was his duty to sentence Blake commensurate to the nature and degree of harm caused and to sentence Blake to the degree that protects the community and “restores the victim.”
Blake admitted that he raped the 12-year-old girl on one occasion, but Jensen said Blake had raped the girl more than once.
McKeon said there was no proof provided in one of three charges Blake pleaded guilty to of a repeat offense.
The judge then cited testimony from the victim’s mother and grandmother, who wrote that Blake’s two sons would be harmed if their father was sentenced to prison.
McKeon also noted that there was a lot of family and community support for Blake.
Blake has no criminal history and will have to comply with treatment, as well as be in regular contact with a probation officer, McKeon said.
A petition circulating on a website called Change.org had garnered more than 3,500 signatures by Friday afternoon, calling for McKeon to be impeached.
Below is the entire statement:
Yesterday, while away from chambers attending a state-wide judicial conference, I became aware of a news article from the Glasgow, Montana weekly newspaper. News reports of court events can be inaccurate, incomplete and fail to reflect an appropriate understanding of the law. Such is the case with this news article.
The article accurately reports a 30 year suspended sentence recently given by this Court for the offense of incest, subject to a 60-day jail sentence and other conditions. The article also recites the report of a licensed clinical social worker finding the defendant in the case to be low risk to offend and recommending community-based treatment. This recital is incomplete and does not give the reader a true picture of the events.
The cited report was actually a psycho-sexual evaluation report of 20 pages containing detailed analysis and testing results. It was the only psycho-sexual evaluation and evidence before the Court. The evaluator was Michael D. Sullivan, a respected forensic specialist and long-time member of the Montana Sex Offender Treatment Association, who has done more than 2,000 such evaluations over a career of nearly 30 years. Sullivan’s undisputed testimony in open court included that the defendant could be safely treated and supervised as a sex offender in the community, that such community treatment was available, that the defendant would benefit from such community-based treatment and that it would be best that he start and complete the same treatment program.
The news article refers to a plea agreement that contained the Government’s recommendations for a mandatory 25 year period of incarceration followed by probation. However, the article did not mention that the plea agreement also called for the psycho-sexual evaluation and contemplated a lesser sentence when stating the following: “If the findings contained in the sexual offender assessment report prepared by a qualified sexual offender evaluator recommends that the treatment of the offender while in a local community affords a better opportunity for rehabilitation of the offender and the ultimate protection of the victim and society, the defendant may argue for a lesser punishment.”
The article fails to note that prior to sentencing, the Government was fully aware of the possibility of a lesser sentence based on the evaluator’s report and yet did not offer conflicting evidence. The article also fails to mention the Court’s specific findings at the sentencing hearing that based on this undisputed evaluator’s report, a Montana statute (46-18-222(6)) provides an exception to mandatory incarceration. Further, the article fails to recognize that this exception is entirely consistent with one of Montana’s stated sentencing policies, namely, to encourage and provide opportunities for an offender’s self-improvement, rehabilitation and reintegration back into a community (46-18-101(1)(d)).
Montana’s other sentencing policies include punishment commensurate with the nature and degree of harm caused and sentence in a manner that protects the public, restores the victim and increases the sense of public safety (46-18-101(1)(a)-(c)). In this regard, the news article referred to statements from family of the victim supporting a community-based treatment for the defendant. Again, the article left out crucial information cited by this Court for reasons of its sentence. That information included statements from both the victim’s mother and maternal grandmother.
The victim’s mother wrote the Court, stating in part:
I do not feel 25 years in prison is necessarily the best way for the defendant to pay for what he has done. The defendant made a horrible choice. He needs help – not to spend 25 years locked up. He has 2 sons that still love him and need their father in their lives, even with very understandable restrictions. I would like to see my children have an opportunity to heal the relationship with their father. Please give him the opportunity to work on fixing the relationships he destroyed. He is not a monster, just a man that really screwed up and has been paying in many ways since and will continue to have to pay through this justice system and with the loss of family and friends and his own conscience. Please help him find the help he needs, as well as our family.
The victim’s grandmother wrote, stating:
What he (the defendant) did to my granddaughter was horrible, and he should face consequences. 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.
As stated ably by the victim’s family, this was a horrible crime and the defendant needed to be held accountable. Yet, the victim’s family recognized several family members as victims of the crime each needing to be restored in a manner that safely rebuilds relationships and protects a community.
The news article also refers to a pre-sentence investigation report of a probation officer. It fails to mention that this report is 15 pages in length, recites the exception to mandatory incarceration and these Montana sentencing policies, includes the psycho-sexual evaluation report AND gives no recommendation for sentencing. Further, the article fails to mention that the probation officer’s investigation found defendant to be 40 years of age with no prior felony record and no history of prior criminal offenses of this nature. The article also fails to mention the prosecution did not challenge the contents of this pre-sentence investigation report. It mentions a prosecutor’s contention of repeat offenses but ignores this investigative record and fails to inform the reader that it is established Montana law that unproven criminal allegations of this nature cannot be considered for purposes of sentencing.
As to the public safety issue, the article does not inform the reader that both the plea agreement and the pre-sentence investigation report contain detailed recommendations for assuring this safety, all of which were incorporated into the Court sentencing. Those conditions applicable to the entire 30 years suspended sentence included, but are not limited to, compliance with the community-based sex offender treatment, regular contact with a probation officer and polygraph testing, approval of treatment providers and his probation officer prior to contact with victim or anyone under 18 years of age, no access to materials of sexual nature, limited access to computers and Internet, written approval of residence and before departure from an assigned district and open inspection of residence.
All district judges take an oath to uphold the Constitution and laws of this state. These constitutional provisions and laws include certain fundamental legal principles that apply at sentencing, including a presumption of innocence for unproved criminal allegations, the varying sentencing policies and the Government’s burden to counter evidence supporting an exception to mandatory sentence. The Court cannot ignore these legal standards and any news article covering situations of this nature should so inform the reader.
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Reporter: Aja Goare