A 22-year-old Flathead County man cried and trembled as he was sentenced to 20 years in Montana State Prison on Thursday for sexually assaulting a 5-year-old girl.
District Judge Ted Lympus ordered a 40-year sentence for Cody Fletcher but suspended 20 years and dictated that he must spend 10 years in prison before he is eligible for parole.
Lympus’ sentence followed testimony from the grandmother of the victim as well as Fletcher’s father and a doctor who evaluated his propensity to re-offend.
Fletcher’s attorney, Lane Bennett, asserted that alcohol was the main cause of the offense and suggested a completely suspended prison sentence with a focus on treatment for Fletcher’s chemical dependency.
Fletcher has claimed that he was heavily intoxicated and does not remember the incident that landed him in Flathead County Detention Center charged with sexual intercourse without consent and sexual assault.
According to court documents, the girl’s father found Fletcher having sexual contact with the girl in her bedroom on May 2, 2010.
“Even though you say you don’t remember your actions, I want you to know [the victim] will never forget your actions,” the girl’s grandmother said.
Fletcher buried his head in his hands and cried throughout the hearing.
Deputy County Attorney Lori Adams said Fletcher has had 16 alcohol-related convictions dating back to his time in the juvenile justice system. She countered Bennett’s assertion that Fletcher needs treatment with evidence that such assistance has been offered in the past.
“He’s had some treatment programs that it seems he abysmally fails,” she said.
Steele Fletcher, Cody Fletcher’s father, testified that his son has shown remorse for his actions. In regard to prosecutors’ request that Fletcher spend 10 years in prison without the possibility of parole, Steel Fletcher said it was unnecessary.
“I don’t think Cody needs 10 years to realize what he’s done.” he said.
When given the opportunity to speak at the end of the hearing, Fletcher apologized to the family of the girl.
“I’m very, very sorry for what happened,” he said. “There is no excuse for what I did. I’m sorry for all the pain.”
Fletcher added that “I’m not asking you to ever forgive me for what I’ve done because it’s not forgivable.”
Prior to announcing his decision, Lympus stated that a sentence is not aimed solely at providing an opportunity for rehabilitation to offenders, but to assign a punishment that fits the crime.
“What we have here is a situation where a 21-year-old sexually assaulted a trusting, innocent 5-year-old little girl,” he said.
Fletcher, who initially pleaded innocent, reached a plea agreement with prosecutors in August in which he agreed to plead guilty to felony sexual assault in exchange for the dismissal of a charge of sexual intercourse without consent.
Reporter Eric Schwartz may be reached at 758-4441 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.