Shortly after noon Friday, a Billings judge sentenced convicted serial rapist Toby Eugene Griego to 22 consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole, plus 60 years and six months, for raping three women and attempting to rape a fourth last year.
“In almost 20 years of being a district court judge, I’ve never seen a more dangerous criminal or a bigger predator in our community,” Judge Russell C. Fagg said, as he delivered the sentences for 27 counts, including 10 counts of rape.
The judge also designated Griego, 42, a level 3 sexual offender and ordered that he, at least initially, be housed in a maximum security unit at the Montana State Prison.
Griego's attorney, Regional Deputy Public Defender David Duke, conceded that the law mandates his client should get life in prison without the possibility of parole, but he argued that consecutive sentences served no legitimate purpose.
Chief Deputy Yellowstone County Attorney Rod Souza argued that consecutive sentences held Griego responsible for each of the crimes a jury convicted the man of in April.
Between the end of January and beginning of July last year, Griego broke into the homes of four women, repeatedly raping three of them and attempting to rape a fourth.
One of those women testified at Friday's hearing, telling Griego to his face that though she now has post-traumatic stress disorder, he has not ruined her life.
Investigators found little evidence linking Griego to the attacks, with the exception of images on his phone showing some of the attacks as they were happening.
In one deleted video that Billings detective Jim Woog was able to recover, Griego turned his phone’s camera from a victim — one of the women who testified Friday — to his face.
“I have decided that I will live my life happily, and I know nothing can stop me,” the woman told Griego, who was sitting feet away. “I will set my mind to amazing things. I will do great things. I will channel my symptoms into something great. What happened to me, it only made me stronger.
“And I won’t let someone like you ruin my life, because I have won the battle, and you have not. That’s all I have to say.”
Griego’s family testifies
Griego declined to make a statement, but two of his family members, a sister and a niece, spoke on his behalf.
“I’m not here to defend you, I’m here to tell you that I stand by your side no matter what,” Griego’s niece said. “I’m not ashamed or embarrassed of you.”
She went on to say that her family has been “accused, ridiculed, harassed and looked down on” and that family gatherings are not the same without his “goofy smirks” and “sarcastic comments.”
“I love you to the moon and back, forever and always,” the woman concluded.
After she left the witness stand, she was replaced by her mother, Griego’s sister.
“I will smile each time I think of you because of the great person you are,” the weeping woman told her brother. “You have always been there for me, our kids and the rest of our family.
She mentioned the childhood memories they share, including the two of them playing in the backyard and the time Griego traded Christmas gifts with her because he knew she wanted the one he got.
“I am proud to be your sister more than you’ll ever know,” she said.
As his sister left the witness stand, Griego, with his hands still shackled to his waist, took off his glasses and used his shirt collar to wipe tears from his eyes.
Women in New Mexico attacks testify
Two of five women Griego attacked in New Mexico in 1997 and 1998 testified Friday at his sentencing.
The first woman — who now lives in Maine and appeared by live video feed — testified that Griego attacked her outside her apartment early on Dec. 11, 1997.
She said he used ether to try to subdue her, and then reached up her dress and repeatedly punched her in the face before running away with her purse.
The second woman, Kelley Hollingsworth, appeared in person, testifying at length about how Griego kidnapped and raped her in Santa Fe, N.M., on the night of Oct. 25, 1997. The Gazette does not typically identify victims of sexual assault, but Hollingsworth, who was 16 at the time of the attack, has agreed to be identified.
“It's not like any other fear I've had in my life," she said of being sexually assaulted. It was like an “out-of-body experience.”
In 1998, Griego took a plea deal and received 15 years, with three suspended, for attacks on four women other than Hollingsworth.
His New Mexico convictions came after investigators found items belonging to about 12 people, most of them young women, Billings Police Detective Ken Paharik testified.
In 2002, Griego took another plea deal and admitted he raped Hollingsworth. He was given a nine-year sentence that ran parallel to the time he was already serving in New Mexico, court records say.
“The plea bargain was really a slap on the wrist for the amount of pain he put me through,” Hollingsworth testified.
Later Friday, Hollingsworth said she finally feels vindicated, and that she plans to return to Santa Fe and start a family with her husband. Hopefully, she will never have to say Griego’s name or think about him again, she said.
Her husband, Marshall Ryals, said he is grateful Montana gave Griego the maximum sentence allowed by law, but that it’s unfortunate taxpayers are now burdened with paying to house Griego for life.
“Twenty cents to $1 could solve the problem,” he said.
“A bullet,” interjected Hollingsworth, who is a captain and chief dental officer in the New Mexico Army National Guard.
‘The same sadistic predator’
Some of Griego’s crimes in New Mexico carried over to Montana’s court system and stacked up with the crimes he committed in Billings, qualifying him for a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.
Souza had sought 23 life sentences, rather than 22. Duke, Griego's attorney, argued that his client shouldn't be given a life sentence for attempted rape.
Fagg agreed and issued a sentence of 20 years for that charge. Otherwise, the judge’s sentence followed exactly the state’s sentencing recommendation.
Souza said Griego’s crimes in New Mexico show the rapist hasn’t changed. Not only did Griego attack at least five women in New Mexico, when he was on parole and probation in 2007, he was caught photographing up women’s skirts in Santa Fe.
“In 2007, this is what Toby Griego’s probation officer said about him,” Souza said, quoting a New Mexico record. “Griego has not made any attempts to address his very predatory views towards females, and can not even manage these impulses on parole. He will be a real and definable threat to females in the Santa Fe area."
Griego was returned to a New Mexico prison in 2007, but finished his sentence in 2008 and promptly moved to Billings.
Detective Paharik testified about dozens of instances stretching from 1997 almost up until Griego's arrest last August in which the rapist stalked or attacked women.
And in a jail call to a family member this week, Griego referred to Hollingsworth and the 1997 robbery victim as "those b------ from New Mexico," Paharik said.
“He is the same sadistic predator he was 17 years ago in New Mexico, and I think the argument can be made that he’s even worse,” Souza told Fagg.
Dr. Robert Page, president of the Montana Sexual Offender Treatment Association, testified at the hearing that he evaluated Griego. The doctor said Griego is a sociopath and has anger and substance abuse problems.
Page said he believes Griego can be treated over time for his conditions, but that he should not be treated in the community because he is likely to reoffend.
“People like Toby Griego cannot be allowed to walk among us,” Souza said. “The scars he left with (the victims) will last forever. He should never, ever again enjoy freedom. Taking his freedom today ensures justice, protects society and gives the victims in this case the freedom to heal.”