Judge John McKeon is facing a backlash after he sentenced a man who pleaded guilty to repeatedly raping his 12-year-old daughter to just 60 days in jail.
District Judge John McKeon last week sentenced the 40-year-old Glasgow man, whose name is being withheld to protect his daughter’s identity, to 30 years in prison. The Flathead Beacon reported that the majority of the sentence was set aside, and the defendant was ordered to serve just 60 days in jail.
With credit for 17 days already served, the man’s sentence boiled down to 43 days in jail. He also must register as a sex offender, is forbidden from accessing pornography and can have only limited access to the internet, the Beacon reported.
As of Thursday afternoon, the Change.org petition seeking McKeon’s removal from the bench had collected more than 51,000 signatures. The petition castigates McKeon for his “horrible” decision.
“This is not what the prosecution wanted. They had made a deal with the father that would give him a 100-year sentence, with 75 years suspended, for the repeated rapes,” the petition reads. “That would have put the father in jail for 25 years. Judge McKeon ignored what the prosecution recommended, and did what he thought was best for the rapist instead of the victim.”
McKeon said in a statement, however, that Valley County prosecutors did not challenge a psychosexual evaluation that found that the defendant could be safely treated and supervised in the community, the Beacon reported. The plea agreement recommending the 25-year sentence allowed for a lesser sentence, depending on the results of the evaluation, the judge said.
McKeon said his critics also fail to understand a Montana law that allows an exception to the mandatory 25-year prison sentence for incest involving someone age 12 or younger if an evaluation finds that treatment “affords a better opportunity for rehabilitation of the offender and for the ultimate protection of the victim and society.”
The victim’s mother and grandmother also wrote letters asking that the girl’s father not be sent to prison, McKeon said.
CNN reported that the mother wrote that while the defendant made “horrible” choices, he needs help, not prison.
“He needs help,” she wrote to the court about her husband. “He has two 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.”
The victim’s grandmother said the defendant’s children, particularly his sons, would be “devastated” if their father was no longer in their lives.
Deputy Valley County Attorney Dylan Jensen pointed out that the girl’s family declined to testify at trial. Jensen said no one spoke up on her behalf during the sentencing hearing, the Beacon reported.