Our View: State needs answers on abuse case
The Montana Department of Health and Human Services has a lot of explaining to do.
According to prosecutor Scott Twito, the department knew of a possible case of child sexual abuse and, rather than report it to law enforcement, made a deal with the alleged offender.
Twito said the department agreed not to report the case to police if the perpetrator, Jack Rumph, agreed to undergo sex offender treatment at a Billings clinic.
Rumph, 43, allegedly abused a 9-year-old girl.
Because an anonymous caller contacted police, Rumph has now been charged and faces 100 years in jail.
A lot more needs to be uncovered, but Montana taxpayers have every right to insist on an explanation for the department's rather bizarre actions.
From all appearances, it seems that the department tried to give Rumph a ticket to freedom when he should have been behind bars.
"It was clearly a criminal matter and should have been reported to law enforcement," Twito said.
This apparent taxpayer-funded coverup of criminal activity is enough to make one sick.
It is the latest in a string of coverups of child sex abuse by people who normally would be considered respectable.
The hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church was guilty of deplorable coverups of sex abuse that stretched over decades. Young people were abused, leaving them with lifelong psychological problems, and the people they trusted made every effort to keep this news from the public.
Last month, a decade-long effort to hide allegations of sexual abuse by an assistant football coach at Penn State University came to light. Powerful administrators did their best to protect the offending coach and the money raised by the cash cow of a football program the university runs. In the end, the coach was arrested and the once-lucrative, and highly lauded, football program was left in tatters.
Just as the Penn State situation came to light, it became clear that Syracuse University administrators and some prominent media outlets had strong suspicions that an assistant basketball coach had abused young men. From all appearances, they turned their heads, hoping not to be confronted with the evidence.
These are cases of generally upstanding people sitting by unwilling to do anything.
There is something terrifying here. People who would never consider ignoring allegations of murder are willingly looking the other way when child abuse allegations arise.
Sadly, children who undergo abuse endure horrific consequences for the rest of their lives. Yet, many people fail to see the importance of taking quick, emphatic action when they hear of suspicious activity.
If anything good comes out of this string of sex abuse scandals, it would be great to see an awakening of the need for prompt reporting of suspicions of sex abuse.
It may be too late for Penn State and Syracuse.
But the people of Montana can still insist that its institutions, many of which have done great work in the past to curb sex abuse, live up to the standards set by people of the state.
We need to find out the details of the Billings case now.