Saying that “people in Missoula need to know that if you rape an acquaintance, it is a serious crime,” Missoula County Attorney Fred Van Valkenburg sought – and got – a 30-year-prison sentence, with 20 suspended, for Beau Donaldson on Friday.
Donaldson, a former University of Montana running back, pleaded guilty in September to raping a childhood friend two years earlier as she slept on his sofa.
Donaldson began to cry as Missoula County District Court Judge Karen Townsend pronounced the sentence. He’ll be eligible for parole if he serves a quarter – 2 1/2 years – of his 10 years in prison without incident.
Donaldson’s own lawyers initially suggested a three-year Department of Corrections sentence, preferably in community treatment, although revised that request to five years just before Townsend sentenced him.
“The court finds this an incredibly troubling case … a young woman’s trust has been violently taken from her,” Townsend told Donaldson. “… Beau, there are consequences for your behavior.”
There was no excuse she told him; the rape could not simply be explained away as “a mistake.”
People among Donaldson’s supporters wailed as Missoula County detention officers handcuffed the weeping defendant and led him from the packed room. The victim and her parents sat dry-eyed.
Until Friday, the Sept. 24, 2010, incident that saw Donaldson charged with sexual intercourse without consent has always been described in a sort of shorthand: He assaulted an acquaintance as she slept.
At the start of the 6 1/2-hour sentencing hearing, his 23-year-old victim, along with her mother and her best friend, described a far more harrowing scenario.
Donaldson’s victim said she feigned sleep out of sheer terror – “he’s got at least 100 pounds on me” – as Donaldson raped her, then waited until he’d left the room before she fled the apartment barefoot. According to testimony in the packed courtroom:
Her mother awoke at 5 a.m. to a phone call, “one that haunts me. … Sheer terror was radiating through the phone.”
It was her daughter, screaming. “She said, ‘Save me, Mom. Help me, Mom. Save me, he’s chasing me down an alley.’ ”
The victim said that Donaldson caught up with her at one point, grabbing her arm. “Honestly, I thought he was going to kill me. I thought I was dead. He has guns and I was running away with the knowledge that he had just raped me,” she said.
She broke away and he finally left. She saw her mother’s car coming toward her along South Avenue and flagged it down. But, she told her mother, her best friend was still in the apartment, sleeping unawares.
The friend, in her turn on the stand, said she, too, awakened to a terrifying call.
The victim “was saying, ‘Beau raped me. You need to get out of the house right now. My mom and I are outside waiting for you.’ ”
The trio then went first to Community Medical Center, then to the First Step center that treats sexual assault victims.
Also Friday, a woman testified by video feed that Donaldson sexually assaulted her at a party in 2008, coming into a bedroom as she slept and locking the door behind him. She screamed for help and friends finally broke in and pulled him off her, the woman testified.
That woman said she didn’t go to police because she just wanted to put the incident behind her. Likewise with Donaldson’s victim, although she later said she realized she couldn’t live with the fact that he might go on to assault other women.
“If I had found out some girl was going through this hell because I didn’t say anything, I probably would have killed myself. No way could I live with that,” she said.
She contacted police a little more than a year ago. After Donaldson admitted raping her in a phone call taped by police, he was arrested last January.
Donaldson’s victim, her mother and friend all cried during their testimony. Not the victim’s father, who informed Donaldson that he was “pissed off,” and then told the entire courtroom “that kid right there is the no-good piece-of-s— rapist that raped my daughter.”
After a quick protest from Donaldson’s attorney, Milt Datsopoulos, the man assured Townsend that he was done cursing, but continued with a furious statement that repeatedly referred to Donaldson only as “the rapist” and “a perverted monster.”
“I’m so proud of my daughter for standing up to him,” he said.
Donaldson’s father also expressed pride in his child. In a brief statement at the end of Friday’s hearing, he said of his son: “He’s a young man. He’s remorseful. It doesn’t make it right. Let him make it right.”
The young woman and Donaldson, as well as their families, had known one another since the children were in first grade. Larry Donaldson, his wife standing silent beside him, pleaded for healing for both families. The victim’s testimony, he said, “made me cry. It makes me cry when I look at my boy.”
He looked at his son anyway. “I’ll be your rock now because you’ve been my rock your whole life,” he said. “I love you, kid.”
Beau Donaldson apologized directly to the victim, her family and friends, and his own family and friends.
“It’s just rippled down and rippled down and rippled down,” he said of the effects of the crime.
But Van Valkenburg attributed Donaldson’s remorse to his “having to finally face up to what he did.”
As part of that facing up, Donaldson must pay nearly $10,600 in restitution – including the cost of the victim’s counseling – and fees once he’s out of prison, Townsend ordered. His pre-sentence report recommended sex offender treatment; he’ll also be eligible for a boot camp program, Townsend said.
He’ll be designated a Tier 1 sex offender, meaning he’s considered at low risk to repeat the offense.
Both Van Valkenburg and Datsopoulos queried witnesses Friday as to their thoughts on a fitting sentence. When Van Valkenburg put the question to the victim, she hesitated.
They’d been friends forever, she said, though never romantically involved. He was like a big brother to her.
“I can’t take away the fact that I care about him. … I want him to get help. I want him to be the person I grew up with.”
But the rape proved that he’s not that person anymore, she said.
She turned to Donaldson. “I truly think you deserve to be raped every day until you understand the pain this has caused me … until you get it, Beau.
“I truly hope you can come out of this a person of quality. … Until then, I don’t care what happens to you.”
Reporter Gwen Florio can be reached at 523-5268, email@example.com or @CopsAndCourts.