Beau Donaldson, who was convicted in 2013 of raping a woman in Missoula, will not return to prison despite a series of parole violations, Missoula County District Court Judge Karen Townsend ruled Monday.
She said a new state law bars her from sending him back behind bars.
Five years ago, Townsend sentenced Donaldson to 30 years in prison with 20 of those suspended after he pleaded guilty to a 2010 rape. In June 2016, he was released on parole and has been living in Bozeman.
Starting last summer, Donaldson began violating his release conditions, including admitting to drinking on numerous occasions, being found in bars, having a smartphone, using social media and lying to his supervising officers.
For these violations, Donaldson received various sanctions by his parole officers, including short stints in jail and being placed on far more stringent supervision restrictions.
In September, enough violations stacked up that Missoula County Attorney Kirsten Pabst filed a petition to revoke Donaldson’s suspended sentence, asking the judge to send him to prison for repeatedly violating the conditions she imposed when she sentenced him for the rape conviction.
Donaldson’s attorney, Peter Lacny, argued that a new law enacted last year by the Montana Legislature said compliance violations like Donaldson’s — breaking conditions of a sentence rather than committing new crimes — limit a judge's discretion. Judges can only revoke the sentence if they believe supervising officers have used all available sanctions or that a defendant won’t respond to any further sanctions short of incarceration.
Lacny also said that Donaldson’s supervising officer had already punished him for the violations, and that Townsend taking further action would be “double punishment.”
At the hearing Monday, Donaldson’s supervising officer and the deputy chief of the Bozeman probation and parole office said they wanted to continue to work with him.
Townsend said that in light of the new law, she “has no option” but to dismiss Pabst’s petition to revoke and allow Donaldson to go back to his parole status.
But she made a point to warn his supervising officers that she had explicitly said when sentencing him that his continued use of alcohol was highly concerning to her, and that his parole supervision should include far more stringent alcohol testing. A meeting with his parole officer once or twice a month, when he may or may not even be tested, didn’t cut it, she said.
Throughout Monday’s hearing, Pabst repeatedly told the judge that while Donaldson’s supervising officers said that he had stopped having violations after being put on more stringent supervision restrictions, that happened at the same time she filed her petition and the potential for a return to prison grew closer.
“There’s only two things that Mr. Donaldson responds to: prison and the direct threat of prison,” she said.
Throughout summer 2017, Donaldson repeatedly broke his conditions, including going to bars and parties, drinking and taking sex enhancement drugs, Pabst said.
Lacny said his client has complied with all the penalties his supervising officers imposed, including going back to sex offender treatment, mental and chemical dependency treatment, and having to stick to a strict schedule.
“Mr. Donaldson knows if he breathes wrong, he’s going back to Deer Lodge,” he said.
Not as long as the parole officers are willing to take him back, Townsend replied.
Throughout Pabst’s talk, a woman in the back of the gallery repeatedly whispered at her to “shut up,” something she would also do when the woman Donaldson raped, Allison Huguet, stood up to make a statement.
“I’m extremely frustrated with what has gone on the last six months,” Huguet said. “He has been given second chance after second chance after second chance.”
Huguet said she felt like the parole officers were more interested in protecting Donaldson than the community.
“I think the only place for Beau to go is back to prison,” she said.
The Missoulian is naming Huguet because she has publicly spoken out in the case and was featured in Jon Krakauer's book, "Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town.''
Donaldson, a former member of the University of Montana Grizzlies football team, apologized to the judge, saying after he was let out on parole he “kind of lost sight of what I needed to do.”
“Those 10 days I spent in jail, it brought back the years that I was in Deer Lodge,” he said.