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Jury dismisses convict’s case saying his safety was ignored by authorities

From ConWeb

HELENA – A convict serving two life terms in the state prison lost a federal lawsuit claiming his civil rights were violated at the Lewis and Clark County Detention Center.

In a hand-written motion filed in federal court that numbers in the hundreds of pages, Duane Ronald Belanus accused Lewis and Clark County, the sheriff’s office and detention officers of ignoring his safety.

Belanus was awaiting trial in July of 2009 when he was assaulted in his jail cell by two other inmates.

Belanus claimed jail staff ignored his safety concerns by letting other inmates know about his charges as a sex offender. He also alleged that jail staff failed to properly house him and failed to take care of his medical needs.

Following a trial, Belanus was convicted in August of 2009 on two counts of aggravated rape and kidnapping for the 2008 brutal rape of a woman he knew and kept captive in handcuffs.

He was given two life prison sentences with no possibility of parole.

On Monday, following a four-day trial, a federal jury dismissed Belanus’ case.

Sheriff Leo Dutton said he’s gratified by the federal verdict. And he says Belanus’ rights were not violated.

“My detention staff took care of him, by not considering the issues of what he’d either been accused of or convicted of,” said Dutton. “They treated him with the dignity that any human being gets when they are in our detention facility.”

Dutton pointed out that during the night of the assault, when Belanus expressed concern for his safety, jail staff told Belanus to lock himself in his jail cell. He declined to do so.

Belanus continues to serve his two life sentences at the State Prison at Deer Lodge.