More than 40,000 people signed a Change.org petition this month to impeach a Montana judge who imposed a two-month prison sentence to a man convicted of raping his young daughter, the Christian Science Monitor reports. The man, who was not named to protect the victim’s identity, has pleaded guilty to raping his 12-year-old daughter and was originally recommended for a mandatory minimum 25-year prison sentence under the state law for child incest cases. District Judge John McKeon instead imposed a punishment of 60 days in jail and a suspended 30-year prison term – that he won’t have to serve if he completes probation – and required the man to attend a community-based sex offender treatment program.
Many people were outraged by the sentencing, especially in light of other short sentences for sexual assault cases, such as the six-month jail sentence for Stanford student Brock Turner and his subsequent release after three months. McKeon “is just one of many judges who have been caught handing down light sentences to rapists,” wrote Madeline Forman in the petition. “60 days in prison with a suspended 30 year sentence does not match the crime and fails to acknowledge the horrors the victim had to endure.” The decision was controversial and, as McKeon has noted, “unpopular,” and it has prompted a reexamination of the balance between incarceration and treatment. The judge defended his actions on the basis that serving a long jail sentence wouldn’t help the defendant. He said state law allowed for exceptions if psychosexual evaluations find that treatment “affords a better opportunity for rehabilitation of the offender and for the ultimate protection of the victim and society.”