A Montana judge is facing a call for impeachment after sentencing a man, who admitted to raping his own 12-year-old daughter, to 60 days in jail — of which he will likely only serve 43 days.
“Judge McKeon did not uphold the responsibility of ensuring justice as he is required to in his elected position,” a portion of petition posted on the website Change.org says. The petition calls for the impeachment of the Valley County, Mont., district court judge, John McKeon and has more than 55,000 signatures.
According to the National Center for State Courts, to impeach a judge in Montana the state’s judicial standards commission may recommend it to the state Supreme Court or two-thirds of the state Legislature must vote for it.
The current case originally appeared before McKeon in February, when a 40-year-old man from Valley County, Mont., was indicted on three counts of incest for allegedly raping his daughter multiple times, according to court records.
In July, the defendant and the state reached a plea agreement. The deputy county attorney for Valley County, who was prosecuting the case, agreed to dismiss two of the three charges if the defendant pleaded guilty to committing one count of incest on Nov. 18, 2015.
The plea agreement recommended a prison sentence of 100 years with 75 years suspended, so 25 years in prison would more than likely actually be served, as well as the “educational phase and cognitive behavioral phase of a sexual offender treatment program,” $80 in court fees and any future cost of “psychological counseling, therapy and treatment” for the victim, according to NPR.
But although the defendant, his lawyer, Casey Moore, and the state attorney prosecuting the case, Dylan Jensen, all signed the plea agreement, the official sentencing was still up to McKeon. And the judge had some leeway, because under Montana law, there is room for an exception to the minimum sentence for incest.
Sadly, though, the child’s own family argued to the court that the rapist be given a lighter sentence.
The victim’s mother wrote, “I do not feel 25 years in prison is necessarily the best way for the defendant to pay for what he has done.” The letter continued:
“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. … 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.”
The victim’s maternal grandmother also wrote a letter: “What [the defendant] did to my granddaughter was horrible, and he should face consequences,” she wrote, “But his children, especially his sons, will be devastated if their dad is no longer part of their lives.”
Court records say the defendant’s daughter, the victim in the case, did not attend the sentencing hearing. No one testified on her behalf.