In October, a Montana man pleaded guilty to the repeated rape of his 12-year-old daughter.
Per Montana state law, prosecutors recommended Martin Blake receive a 100-year sentence with 75 years suspended.
However, Judge John McKeon gave Blake a 30-year suspended sentence, which means he will only serve the 30 years if he fails to complete his rehabilitation program.
In addition, the man received 60 days in jail, 17 of which he had already served.
Judge McKeon defended his decision by pointing to a legal loophole that promotes rehabilitation instead of jail time.
The loophole, as described in The Washington Post, allows:
…those arrested for incest involving someone under 12 years old to avoid prison if a psychosexual evaluation finds that psychiatric treatment “affords a better opportunity for rehabilitation of the offender and for the ultimate protection of the victim and society.”
McKeon also noted that the defendant didn’t have a felony record, had a job, and that there was a lack of input from the victim or an advocate for the victim.
Deputy Valley County Attorney Dylan Jensen told the Associated Press that no one spoke on behalf of the victim at Friday’s sentencing hearing…not even the child’s own mother.
Instead, the child’s mother and grandmother both sent statements to Judge McKeon on behalf of the rapist.
The victim’s mother — who actually walked in on one instance of her daughter being raped by Blake — 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 defendant made a horrible choice. He needs help – not to spend 25 years locked up. He is not a monster, just a man that really screwed up…”
The young girl’s grandmother wrote in a separate letter:
“What he did to my granddaughter was horrible, and he should face consequence. And I certainly never want it to happen again to anyone. But his children, especially his sons, will be devastated if their dad is no longer part of their lives.”
While the two women were focused on protecting the defendant and their other children, there was one person notably absent from their statements: the 12-year-old girl.
A petition to impeach the judge, which was published by Change.org, also noticed the lack of support for the victim.Image Credit: Screenshot/Change.org
The petition read:
Judge McKeon did what he thought was best for the rapist instead of the victim. He seemed to only listen to those who stood by a man who sexually assaulted his own daughter multiple times. From the victim’s mother to his church, they came out in support of Martin Blake.
In order for a judge to be impeached, two-thirds of the Montana House and the Senate must vote in support of impeachment.
Though Judge McKeon followed through on his plans to retire before an impeachment could occur, the petition still has the possibility to affect future cases.
On Monday, Montana Department of Justice spokesman Eric Sell said they could not find legal grounds to challenge the judge’s decision, but they are working to close the “reprehensible” legal loophole.
Assistant Attorney General Dan Guzynski has since proposed legislation that would prevent the lenient sentence for new cases.
During a state legislative session that begins on January 2nd, the attorney general’s office will advocate for the change.
In an email to the Associated Press, Sell said:
“We are hopeful that the legislature sees the wisdom in the proposed change.”
Information about who the child is currently living with has not been released.