A disturbing case out of Montana involving charges of incest and child rape is quickly catching national attention, but not merely because of its appalling nature.
Americans are lashing out at Judge John C. McKeon for a ruling he handed down in early October.
Initially, prosecutors had sought a prison term of 100 years for the father — who has been identified by local media as 40-year-old Martin Blake — with 75 of those years suspended per an in-state law.
As part of a plea agreement, however, McKeon ultimately gave Blake 60 days behind bars, including the 17 that he had already served. He will also be on probation for the next 30 years.
Citing his client as “remorseful, forthright and cooperative” — as well as “low-risk for repeating offenses” — defense attorney Casey Moore defended McKeon's ruling as appropriate:
“I’m not asking that he be given a slap on the wrist.
He did spend 17 days in jail, and he did lose his job. For the most part, he will be on supervision for the rest of his life.”
The father's crime was reportedly “only discovered when the mother of the child walked in on one of the sexual assaults.”
Still, Judge McKeon said that it was testimony in support of Blake from his “family, friends, church and his employer” that caused him to give less than the recommended sentence.
For many, Blake's seemingly negligible punishment echoes that of Brock Turner's highly-publicized three-month prison sentence, and Americans are outraged. And thousands of Americans are trying to take matters into their own hands:
As of Tuesday, a petition on Change.org calling for Judge McKeon to be impeached has earned over 14,750 supporters.
The petition argues:
"Judge Mckeon is retiring very soon and does NOT deserve to collect retirement from the people of Montana.
He did not fulfil [sic] the duties of the position we elected him for. He acted without respect for the laws of the state of Montana."
McKeon, for his part, has blamed the backlash on the media's “incomplete” reporting, as the Billings Gazette notes:
"The judge pointed to Montana law, which allows him to sentence an offender to less than the mandatory minimum if a psycho-sexual evaluation determined the offender would do better in community-based treatment.
In the judge's statement, McKeon mentions four things that must be considered in sentencing, including public safety, the degree of harm caused, restoring the victim of a crime and encouraging rehabilitation and reintegration of an offender."
While the prosecutor in the case, Dylan Jensen, has said that he “was shocked and disappointed” by McKeon's ruling, he has said that he will respect it.
Nonetheless, it appears that McKeon — who is set to retire in November after 22 years as a state district judge — will end his career on what, in the eyes of many, is a disgraceful note.