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Group Protests Plea Deal in Sex Abuse Case
Residents rally for stronger punishment for offenders
Protestors gather in front of the Flathead County Justice Center in opposition to a plea deal for Theodore "Ted" Ramon, a Polebridge man charged with sexual assault. – Justin Franz | Fleathead Beacon.
A group of protestors stood on the Flathead County Justice Center's lawn along Kalispell's south Main Street last week, holding signs advocating for stronger punishment for sex offenders who target children.

The impetus behind the protest is the plea deal for Theodore "Ted" Ramon, a Polebridge man who was charged with three counts of felony sexual abuse of children, but due to the deal has pleaded no contest to one of the counts and had the other two dropped.

Prosecutors are recommending a 15-year suspended sentence, meaning Ramon won't spend time in prison unless he violates his probation.

Jessie Way, a local resident who read media reports about the case, said she was surprised to see such a deal for a sex offender.

"It infuriated me," Way said as she took a break from holding her protest sign on Aug. 8. "There's no voice for these children."

Way and other concerned citizens decided to organize and shine light on such abuse cases and their prevalence in Flathead County; they picked the Ramon case because it is ongoing. Ramon is scheduled for sentencing on Aug. 29, and the sentencing judge is not bound by the plea agreement.

In 2011, Ramon was charged with felony sexual abuse of children after a 10-year-old girl's mother called authorities with reports that her daughter had been abused.

Court records state that the girl told detectives she visited Ramon's "print studio," where she saw pornographic material and where Ramon showed her such movies. The child told investigators that Ramon took pictures of her in sexual poses, and that there had been inappropriate touching, according to prosecutors.

She also told detectives that Ramon had offered her cigars, drugs and alcohol, according to court filings.

The occurrences between the girl and Ramon happened over a course of two years, she said. She was between the ages of 8 and 10 years old at the time, and Ramon was between 51 and 53 years old.

Ramon initially pleaded not guilty to the three felony charges in 2011, but changed his plea to go with the deal. In exchange for dropping two of the felony charges, Ramon pleaded no contest to one charge of sexual abuse of children on June 27.

As part of the deal, prosecutors agreed to recommend 15 years in prison, with all of that time suspended, and no further custodial time required.

Travis Ahner, the prosecuting attorney in this case and a deputy county attorney, said there were a significant number of factors that went in to creating the plea deal, most of which he said he could not discuss.

One of the biggest factors was a favorable report from Dr. Michael Scolatti, a psychiatrist from Missoula, who said there was no evidence of deviant sexual preferences in Ramon and that he would be designated as having a low risk to reoffend.

But the group protesting the plea deal does not believe the suspended sentence adequately protects the community. Laurie Bell, who stood with the protest, said she felt the deal protects the offender instead of the victim.

"We need to start speaking for the victims," Bell said.

Both Bell and Way said they personally knew victims of sexual abuse, but because it is an uncomfortable subject, people often won't discuss it. Their protest will hopefully shed some light in these dark corners, the women said.

"Nobody's speaking up for this child," Bell said.

The protesters will be on the same corner on Aug. 22 and Aug. 29, Way said.
On 08-16-13, BillC commented....
I know that in other states the trial judge has the option of rejecting the plea deal.  Does this option exist in Montana?  If so, why would any thinking jurist accept such a deal? 
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