A Missoula tattoo parlor owner who pleaded guilty to sexually abusing a teenage girl over several years received a 15-year suspended sentence Tuesday in Missoula District Court.

James Lee Burns, owner of Painless Steel on South Fifth Street West, must also pay $39,000 in restitution to cover five years of counseling costs for his victim, and register as a Tier 1 sex offender, meaning that he's considered a low risk for repeating the offense.

Burns' attorney, John Smith, had argued for a six-year deferred sentence, meaning the case would be dismissed if he served out the six years without incident. But Deputy Missoula County Attorney Suzy Boylan demurred, saying that "I think between the charge and the sentence, he is getting an incredible break for which he should be incredibly grateful."

Burns pleaded guilty in September to a felony count of sexual assault. His victim accused him of molesting her about a dozen times, beginning when she was about 13 until she was 20.

"The only reason you are not going to prison is that you have done an excellent job of cleaning up the mess that you have made," District Court Judge Douglas Harkin told Burns.

Boylan pointed out that Burns and his wife now have a 2-year-old adopted son, which means that Burns inevitably will be in contact with other children.

"We need to be very careful of the contact he has with small children," Harkin said. " ... As the boy grows up, there will be other boys and there will be girls hanging around."

Smith told Harkin that one of the conditions placed upon Burns stipulates that he can't be around other children unless he's accompanied by an approved and trained adult who's aware of Burns' background.

Another condition, said Boylan, is that Burns have no contact with his victim unless she initiates it through his probation officer.

The victim specifically requested the suspended sentence, Boylan said, which means that the charge stays on his record.

"Her feeling was that he did not need to go to prison, but needs some accountability - and some public accountability," she said.

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(10) comments

mtmama78
mtmama78

Hey, public accountability. Isn't that what I read? Here it is, this is about as public as it gets. Along with word of mouth to keep your kids safe. Lots of great talent at Blaque Owl Tattoo I hear...

****("Her feeling was that he did not need to go to prison, but needs some accountability - and some public accountability," she said.)

just sayin'
just sayin'

why is this back in the headlines again? This was 4+ yrs ago. Think about victim impact as well that this is being regurgitated.

reloader212
reloader212

If he had shared pot brownies he would be going to jail for sure, but since he only raped her, we better let him go. What is wrong with our justice system. This does not reflect what the citizens want. This is outrageous!

bwinslow
bwinslow

This trial happened several years ago, so I'm wondering why it's being reprinted now. Don't get me wrong, though...I'm glad this scumbag is back in the paper, getting the attention he so richly deserves. He should have been locked up permanently.

wildmtn
wildmtn

Sounds like Judge Harkin feels the same way Judge Baugh does, he's just not stupid enough to say it out loud. Some part of him believes the victim brought it on herself. A 13yo is considered, by law, A CHILD who is not yet able to make these kinds of choices. He'd be in jail if he smoked pot with her or fed her pot brownies. What a farce.

meza
meza

how does this guy not go to prison?? i dont understand? what am i missing here?
and u let him adopt a kid? if you were that kid what would you think of the justice system and the city of missoula for leaving you with someone like this knowingly when you are only 2. missoula just locks up pot smokers and bums for urinating in public.. if all you're doing is raping people and spraying people with bear spray you should be fine.

BobcatBetty
BobcatBetty

Thetruth406....I completely agree right up to the conscience part. I bet he still doesn't have a conscience about, and IF so it's only because he was caught! He was far from stand up and turned himself in, he was caught and charged. And his wife stayed with him, shame on her as a mom! I would brutalize someone who touched my child in that manner or ill willfully. There's a special place for "people" like this!! He deserves to loose all of what he's taken from he victim. Shameful shameful shameful!

reloader212
reloader212

The judge said the only reason he is not going to jail is, "he did a good job cleaning this mess up". I seriously despise our justice system!!

reloader212
reloader212

Wow, the people growing marijuana are sitting in prison, but the child rapist goes free. Only in Montana! Rapist welcome, no Prison!

thetruth406
thetruth406

This guy deserves to be in prison where he'll get what he deserves. It's unbelievable that he just walks with a fine. Seriously? He molested a child. Who cares what he did after. He did it for 7 years and THEN grew a conscious? Yeah, that happens. Most perverts realize after 7 years that what they're doing is wrong

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