A Glasgow man was sentenced in Valley County District Court on Oct. 4 for one count of felony incest. With a handful of supporters seated behind him in the courtroom, Martin Blake, 40, appeared before Judge John C. McKeon.
Following two hours of testimony and arguments, Judge McKeon sentenced Blake to 30 years in the Montana prison system, with all 30 years suspended.
Blake will be required to meet a number of conditions, including registering as a sex offender.
Testimony began with probation and parole officer Pam Heikens, who explained some aspects of the plea agreement. Much of the remaining testimony centered around Blake and risk assessments completed by a licensed clinical social worker, Michael Sullivan.
Sullivan testified that Blake would benefit from community-based sex-offender treatment and described him as a low-risk for recidivism with effective treatment. He also indicated that it would be important for him to have social support during his treatment, noting that after his arrest, Blake did suffer the “collapse of social support” when he lost his family and his job, among other things.
During his testimony, Blake indicated that he is currently living with his mother and stepdad, is employed, and attends church every Sunday. His testimony was confirmed when his mother took the stand and indicated, “My son is welcome at my home for any time that he needs.”
The prosecuting attorney, Dylan Jensen, asked that the court sentence Blake pursuant to the plea agreement, stating that he needed to be held accountable for his actions.
Jensen argued that although Blake was honest about the incident and seemed “contrite,” the acts were egregious and Blake needed to receive a fairly substantial punishment.
Judge McKeon went on to question Jensen’s indication of plural incidents, as the sentencing was only for one count of incest. Jensen explained that there were more than one instance, but per the proposed plea agreement, the other counts would be dismissed. He did justify his reference to the other acts by explaining that they were included in the assessments completed by Sullivan and testified on earlier in the proceedings. Jensen further responded by stating, “Either way, my recommendation would be the same.”
Public Defender Casey Moore argued that Sullivan’s testimony was reliable and that Blake would benefit from the recommended community-based treatment program. Moore described Blake as remorseful, forthright and cooperative and asserted that he is low-risk for repeating offenses.
Moore stated that there is more than one way to hold someone accountable. “I’m not asking that he be given a slap on the wrist,” said Moore. “He did spend 17 days in jail, and he did lose his job.” He also argued that consequences for Blake will be considerable even if he isn’t sent to prison, “For the most part,” Moore said, “he will be on supervision for the rest of his life.”
In the end, McKeon opted to not follow recommendations set forth in the proposed plea agreement, which would have sent Blake to prison for a minimum of 25 years. When discussing his reasons for suspending the sentence, McKeon referenced the support that Blake had from family, friends, his church and his employer. That support included letters written by the victim’s mother and grandmother asking the court to allow Blake to remain in the community.
Judge McKeon ended the proceedings by explaining his ruling. He indicated that the conditions are “quite restrictive” and “quite rigorous” and stated “This is the order of the court and the reasons for it.”
When contacted for comment regarding the sentence, Jensen replied, “I was shocked and disappointed, but I respect the judge’s decision.” Moore declined to comment.