A jury took just over three hours Friday to find a Missoula man guilty of allegations that he took a drunken girl he found in a downtown parking garage home and raped her.
Shane Pelletier was convicted on a single charge of sexual intercourse without consent.
Pelletier, who was 29 at the time of the July 2017 incident, had claimed he found the woman heavily intoxicated and vomiting in the stairwell of the parking structure, offered to bring her home, gave her food, and let her shower and sleep there. He said the next morning she was thankful for his help and consented to sex in an encounter he genuinely believed would blossom into a romantic relationship.
“Even in the best version of this fantasy world, this woman woke up in a strange place and suddenly within minutes of waking up she’s interested in having sex with this random stranger without a condom,” Deputy County Attorney Brian Lowney said in closing arguments Sunday. “It’s a tale that’s too ridiculous for words.”
The woman reported to police on July 7, 2017, that she had blacked out from drinking the night before and awoken in the dark in an apartment she did not recognize being raped by a man she did not know. She passed out again, she testified on Wednesday, and when she woke up in the morning he was trying to assault her again.
Over the course of the investigation through the end of the trial, Pelletier offered six different accounts of what happened, even changing his story to allege he woke up to find her raping him — telling detectives he wanted her charged with rape.
During testimony on Friday, Pelletier admitted some points he offered in his initial interview with police were not true. As Lowney pushed which scenarios were true and which ones weren’t, Pelletier seemed to be losing patience.
“Which answer are you looking for, Mr. Lowney?” Pelletier asked from the stand.
“I’m looking for the truth, that’s what I’m looking for,” Lowney said.
His defense attorney, Regional Deputy Public Defender Jennifer Streano, argued that when Pelletier was interrogated by police, he was bewildered by being arrested in Butte by U.S. Marshals, being held in that city for several days, then transported to Missoula with little information why he was in handcuffs.
Pelletier at one point also claimed he would never have sex with someone as intoxicated as the woman was that night.
“I’m a very kind generous person and, um, I had, um, I’ve had a lot of different friends and stuff like that so, I was just kind of hurt by it,” Pelletier said.
But Lowney countered that he had been investigated previously for another case of sexual intercourse without consent. During a break without the jury present, Lowney said a 14-year-old girl had reported to Missoula police in 2003 that she had been in Pelletier’s bedroom when they engaged in some foreplay; she told him “no,” when he wanted to go further, but he did not stop and that she cried through the alleged rape.
The girl reported the allegations to police two months later but Pelletier was never charged. He was 15. The jury did not hear the details of that investigation as they are contained in this story.
Streano contended Pelletier had, in a more general scope, been consistent in his account of the evening in July 2017 and the morning that followed. He also did not seem like someone who had just committed rape when he walked the woman to the bus that morning, as seen in the video during trial, she said.
“If he had raped an unconscious person, he is going to want to distance himself from that person as much as possible,” she said.
The video appeared to show it was the woman who was trying to create distance between them that morning at the bus station. Moments after getting aboard the bus, text messages displayed during trial show the woman told a friend she believed she had just been raped.