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Man who attacked bicyclist on trail gets prison term

Man who attacked bicyclist on trail gets prison term

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'I just hope that you make sure he stays in prison as long he's supposed to.' - 22-year-old victimShe is 22 and has trouble sleeping at night.

She fears the walk from her car to her school classes. Her grades have dropped. She doesn't feel safe when she's alone.

"I don't even feel safe walking to school by myself in the daylight," the woman said Tuesday during a District Court hearing.

Her fear stems from David Ray Lusk, who attacked her last summer on Kim Williams Trail east of Missoula. Judge John Henson sentenced Lusk to 10 years in prison for intimidation, then tacked on 30 more for being a persistent felony offender. The judge suspended the last 20 years of that term, so Lusk is facing a 20-year prison term followed by 20 years on probation.

On a bright, warm afternoon on July 7, the woman rode ride her bicycle up the Kim Williams Trail toward Hellgate Canyon. She heard another rider approaching from behind, so she slowed and pulled right to let the cyclist past.

But Lusk didn't pass. Instead, he forced her to stop, then lunged at her, grabbing at her breasts and trying to pull her pants off. She screamed and fought back, elbowing Lusk in the groin and finally breaking his grip.

She pedaled quickly back to Missoula, and reported the attack to Missoula police. The assailant, she said, was missing a tooth in the upper right side of his mouth. Lusk was still on the trail when police arrived. He was missing a tooth, and told police he'd been involved in an encounter with a woman a short time earlier.

At the police station, the woman identified Lusk as her attacker. He was charged with attempted sexual intercourse without consent.

Lusk's case was never really about whether he committed the crime. The question was whether he suffered mental-health problems severe enough to put him a hospital rather than a prison. The question seemed particularly acute at the 48-year-old Lusk's first District Court hearing, where he told District Judge John Henson that unspecified religious beliefs prevented him from accepting a female public defender. To sidestep future appeals, Henson appointed public defender Larry Mansch.

After Lusk was deemed fit to stand trial, Mansch and Missoula County Attorney Fred Van Valkenburg negotiated a plea agreement that called for Lusk to plead guilty to felony intimidation and accept a 10-year prison term on that charge. Lusk, who has served time for a sex crime in Oregon, pleaded guilty in late November.

As part of the agreement, Van Valkenburg also sought additional imprisonment because of Lusk's felony past. On Tuesday, Henson granted that wish, which the victim shared.

"I just hope that you make sure he stays in prison as long he's supposed to," the woman told Henson from the witness stand.

Lusk will not be eligible for parole until he completes the prison's sexual-offender treatment program.

Wednesday - 12/30/98
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