A Montana judge has come under heavy fire after he sentenced a man who pleaded guilty to raping his 12-year-old daughter to 60 days in jail. Moreover, the judge gave the father credit for 17 days already served in jail while awaiting trial, bringing the total amount of time left to serve to 43 days. In the wake of the controversial ruling, a fierce backlash has ensued and tens of thousands have signed a petition calling for the judge’s impeachment.
The details of the case are disturbing and sad. The man, whom some news reports have declined to identify to protect the identity of the victim, was caught in the act of sexually molesting his daughter by his wife. He had been charged with multiple counts of incest and rape, but as part of the plea deal he struck with prosecutors he pleaded guilty to just one count of rape. Prosecutors, in accordance with state law, had recommended a mandatory 25-year sentence — 100 years with 75 suspended. “A father repeatedly raped his 12-year old daughter,” Deputy Valley County Attorney Dylan Jenson reminded the court during a sentencing hearing earlier this month. However, Judge Robert McKeon issued a 30-year suspended prison sentence, meaning that if the father adhered to the conditions set forth in his probation — including registering as a sex offender and having his access to pornography blocked and his internet access limited — he would serve a 60-day sentence.
Following McKeon’s decision, a petition was launched on Change.org to have him impeached. “It’s time to start punishing the judges who let these monsters walk our streets,” part of the statement on the petition reads. McKeon, feeling the mounting criticism, has actually come forward to defend and explain his reasoning for what is widely seen as a light sentence. In an email to The Associated Press, McKeon said according to Montana law, those convicted of incest with someone under the age of 12 may be allowed to avoid prison if psychiatric treatment “affords a better opportunity for rehabilitation of the offender and for the ultimate protection of the victim and society.” McKeon added that the victim’s mother and grandmother wrote to him asking for leniency in his sentence. The victim’s mother told the judge in her letter that she wants her children, including the man’s two older sons, to “have an opportunity to heal the relationship with their father.” The victim’s grandmother expressed a similar sentiment, acknowledging that the man’s crime was “horrible,” but that “especially his sons, will be devastated if their dad is no longer part of their lives.”
McKeon said the cumulative effect of his interpretation of the law along with the pleas for leniency influenced his final decision. Meanwhile, critics of the sentencing have pointed out that nobody spoke in court — or wrote a letter to the judge — on behalf of the 12-year-old girl who is the victim in the case. As of Wednesday, the petition to have McKeon impeached had surpassed 20,000 signatures, but in another twist, it may actually be impossible for him to be impeached — no matter how many signatures the petition ends up collecting.
Read the full story at The Washington Post.