Two years after his rape conviction was overturned, Cody Marble has brought the matter back to court.
On Thursday, the 34-year-old former Missoula resident sued Missoula County, its Sheriff's Office and County Attorney’s Offices, and several of their employees, claiming that they mishandled the investigation and prosecution of a 2002 rape case against Marble.
His conviction in that case has been vacated, and the charges against him dismissed. Now, his father Jerry Marble says that “hopefully this lawsuit will bring it all to a head and will culminate in him being able to survive out here."
The lawsuit revives a legal saga that began in 2002, when Missoula County prosecutors alleged that Marble, then 17, raped 13-year-old Robert Thomas in the shower area of the Missoula County Detention Center, where both were juvenile inmates at the time. The following November, he was convicted of sexual intercourse without consent and eventually sentenced to 20 years in prison with 15 years suspended.
Marble, however, maintained his innocence. In 2009, the Montana Innocence Project took up his case. In January 2017, after a long series of investigations and a Montana Supreme Court ruling in Marble’s favor, retired Missoula County District Court Judge Edward McLean vacated the conviction and ordered a new trial. Missoula County Attorney Kirsten Pabst promptly dismissed the charges, having already concluded that his conviction “lacks integrity and in the interests of doing justice, it must be dismissed.”
Explaining her decision, she noted that at least three of the witnesses had recanted their statements, and cited a belief among officers and jail staff that Marble had been “railroaded.”
But even once free, Cody’s life has been rocky. Soon after being exonerated for the rape, he was arrested for a probation violation in a separate case, then released under a community-placement option. Jerry Marble said his son currently lives out of state and was not immediately available for comment Friday.
“It’s a struggle. You get kicked out of prison and you’re not giving him anything,” said Jerry Marble. “He lost 15 years of his life and all the opportunities that were available to him in the middle, and that’s of course why they have these [legal] remedies.”
The lawsuit names several defendants: Missoula County; the Sheriff’s Office and County Attorney’s Office; Missoula County Sheriff’s Deputies Michael Dominick, Robert Taylor, Brad Giffin; deputy county attorneys Andrew Paul, Dorothy Brownlow, and Jennifer Johnson; former Missoula County Attorney Fred Van Valkenburg and former Missoula County Chief Criminal Deputy Attorney Karen Townsend; former Missoula County Sheriff Mike McMeekin; Sheriff’s Lt. Jeremy Meeder and five other defendants identified only as “John Does 1-5.” Some of these individuals have retired or left their respective agencies since their involvement in the case.
“Marble contends that Defendants systematically fabricated the evidence necessary for probable cause, and therefore for defendants’ arrest against him. Marble also contends that this fabricated evidence also became the basis for Defendants’ wrongful conviction against him.”
His lawsuit asks that the court rule in his favor on 15 specific counts, ranging from false arrest to intentional infliction of emotional distress. It seeks damages in an amount to be determined at trial, “in order that such an award will deter similar proscribed conduct in the future.”
“This isn’t just about compensation,” Jerry Marble said, “this is about holding the people who are responsible for it accountable, the people in law enforcement and the several prosecutors that were involved.”
Marble’s attorney, Fernando Terrones with Gustafson Law Offices in Conrad, did not reply to a request for comment. Missoula County Attorney Kirsten Pabst said that her office had not been served with the complaint as of Friday afternoon and was therefore not in a position to comment.