A former Montana Grizzlies running back serving time in the Montana State Prison for rape has requested a lighter sentence from a review panel, and the Missoula County Attorney’s Office anticipates a decision will be announced in a couple of weeks.
In January, Beau Donaldson was sentenced to 30 years in prison, with 20 suspended, by Missoula District Court Judge Karen Townsend.
On Thursday, the Missoula man and his lawyer called the sentence excessive and asked that it be reduced.
His lawyer could not be reached for comment, but in a video of the proceedings, Donaldson said he wants the chance to “rehabilitate myself and make myself a better person.”
The victim in the rape, however, told the three-judge sentence review panel that she doesn’t have the opportunity to request a review of the “life sentence he has forced on me.” The woman, who fled barefoot from his apartment in a harrowing foot chase after the rape, asked the judges to punish Donaldson.
“The only thing that is excessive in this case is the amount of suffering Beau has caused,” the woman said.
Donaldson pleaded guilty in September to raping his childhood friend two years earlier as she slept on his sofa. In sentencing him, Townsend said Donaldson would be eligible for parole if he served 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. Donaldson has admitted drug and alcohol abuse, and Thursday he requested 25 years suspended with the remaining five years served in a Department of Corrections treatment program, according to KECI-TV.
At the initial sentencing, Missoula County Attorney Fred Van Valkenburg successfully argued for Donaldson to serve 30 years in prison with 20 suspended, and Thursday the prosecutor urged the panel of judges to uphold the sentence. Van Valkenburg also said he could ask for a longer sentence, but he wouldn’t.
On Friday, he praised the victim in the rape case for her testimony before the panel, as well as the comments of another woman who reported an incident where “Beau had attacked her and was grinding on her.” Van Valkenburg said witness testimony at such hearings is unusual, and the women’s arguments were “very compelling.”
“Both of them made amazing statements to the court in showing tremendous courage and concern for potential future victims,” Van Valkenburg said.
Van Valkenburg said Donaldson received a “reasoned and reasonable” sentence in District Court, and the defendant had agreed a sentence from the judge would be an appropriate dispensation of his case.
“So I don’t think he should really be complaining now about the fact that he didn’t get exactly what he wanted when he got what he plea bargained for,” Van Valkenburg said.
Anyone sentenced to prison in Montana has the right to ask for a review, Van Valkenburg said. The review panel is a division of the Montana Supreme Court made up of three District Court judges.
Typically, the panel upholds sentences, Van Valkenburg said. He estimated the judges affirm sentences 90 percent of the time, reduce them in 7 percent or 8 percent, and increase them in 1 percent or 2 percent of the cases.
Donaldson's lawyer, Milt Datsopoulos, was in flight Friday and could not be reached for comment, according to his assistant; a voicemail left on a number believed to be his cellphone was not returned by press time.
On Friday, neither his office nor the District Court could provide the legal brief requesting the sentence review; the County Attorney's Office directed requests for the brief to the District Court.