Rape charge dropped in drug plea agreement
July 2, 2014
A Havre man will spend six years on probation, with the chance to clear his name, and in exchange he no longer faces a rape charge.
Jonathan Aaron Currie, born in 1992, entered a plea agreement April 3 to plead guilty to making two $40 marijuana sales in 2013 and in exchange, the prosecution dropped a rape charge filed in 2012.
Currie's attorney, Nathan Hoines of Great Falls, said during his sentencing recommendations on the drug charges that Currie needs rehabilitation and supervision, not a criminal record.
"I can tell you one thing about Jonathan, he is a very immature kid. He made some very bad decisions ... ," Hoines said. "He's going to have these black marks against him anyway ... you know, he's got a tough road ahead of him. I can't imagine, 22 years old, can't have a drink, can't go into a bar, can't go into a casino, he's got to remain law-abiding, he has to change his friends, he has to complete his college education. And I think, your honor, he will be able to do that if you give him the opportunity."
A 15-year-old girl told police officers Oct. 14, 2012, that she left a house party with Currie in April of that year and went to his house, a charging document says. She said she had had four or five beers and that she was drunk.
She said Currie asked her if she wanted to have sex and she said no a few times, and kept saying no while he forced her to have sex with him, the document says.
He then was charged, in March and April of 2013, while the rape trial was pending, with selling an eighth-ounce of marijuana on each occasion to a drug task force informant.
The prosecutor, Hill County Deputy Attorney Ed Hirsch, said after the hearing he could not comment on the negotiations leading up to the plea agreement that dismissed the rape charge, but added, "What we do in these kinds of cases is generally driven by the victim."
The main discussion in the hearing was whether Currie would receive a suspended sentence, which would mean the charges would remain on his record, or deferred impositions of sentence, which would allow him to request the felonies be struck from his record if he abided by all conditions of release during the probation.
Currie's father, Jeff Currie, testified that if the charges stay on his son's record they would never be able to transfer Jeff Currie's business, a bail bonding company, to Jonathan Currie. If the charges were dropped after six years, that would be a possibility, he said.
Hoines said the facts of the charges do not show a reason to avoid a deferred imposition. He said, although he wouldn't, he also could argue that the facts only justify one drug charge, not two, as the charges stem from $40 sales to the same confidential informant about a month apart.
"You can't just leave a guy hanging out there and keep buying to create more charges," he said. "It should have been one charge."
He also said the deferred imposition actually "is a bigger hammer." If Currie violated conditions of release in a three-year suspended sentence, the most the judge could sentence him to would be three years. In a deferred imposition, the judge could impose the longest possible sentence for drug sales - life in prison.
Hirsch recommended suspended sentences, saying deferred imposition is intended for people with a first offense when it is something out of the ordinary. He said Currie's actions "were not out of character for him."
Hirsch also said the chance of taking over Currie's father's business should not enter into the decision.
"The horse has already left the barn in this case," he said.
Jeff Currie testified that his son was going through a very difficult time during the period in question. He moved to live with his father his sophomore year in high school and had a hard time transitioning to living in Havre and adjusting to having a family with several younger step-siblings, Currie said.
Jonathan Currie also was having a very difficult time dealing with his grandfather's illness, Jeff Currie said.
His grandfather, long-time coach including at Havre High School and Montana State University-Northern Walt Currie, died of complications from a blood disease last year.
Jeff Currie said his son and grandfather were very close, and it made watching Walt Currie's illness progress very hard for Jonathan Currie.
"It had a huge impact on Jonathan," he testified.
Currie said he and his son would work to make sure Jonathan Currie met all requirements of probation, with no excuses.
"We're not the type of people to back down," he said. "We get what we deserve
He said if his son violates conditions of release, he would turn him in.
"It won't bother me a bit," he said.
Judge Olson, before issuing the sentence, said the record of misdemeanor offenses and juvenile offenses really doesn't bother him.
"Let me tell you what does bother me ... ," he said. "The fact that you committed two felonies when you had another felony pending is very alarming.
"The court is not considering in any way, shape or form the nature of the felony that is going to be dismissed as part of the plea agreement because, again, you have not been convicted of that charge and considering that would be inappropriate. But having two felonies pending at the same time - you have any idea what you put yourself through?"
He said he could sentence Currie to life in the Montana penitentiary on each charge, and a persistent felony offender, which the prosecution is dropping as part of the plea agreement, can have a sentence of up to 100 years.
"Try to wrap your head around those numbers," Olson said. "Your life as you know it is over."
He said he agreed with everything Hirsch said, "Except I think a deferred imposition is a harsher sentence. ... If you can comply with rules of probation and parole and not come before this court I am hoping that will turn you from an immature young man to a mature man in his later 20s who can make some contributions to society.
"By the same token, violation of the terms of probation are going to have a very significant effect on your life," he said. "And I don't make promises or guarantees, but I would suspect if I am sitting back in this courtroom again on a reported violation, the Montana State Penitentiary is in your future."
"You won't see me here," Currie said.
"I hope you are right," Olson replied.