Yellowstone County Courthouse

Yellowstone County Courthouse.

LARRY MAYER/Gazette Staff

Though the victim wasn't in court Tuesday, there was much talk about how a child's life was irreparably changed after she was raped before she turned 3.

Candi Howman, who has been taking care of the girl for three years, said the behavioral issues are ongoing.

"It's been awful for me," she said in court. "It's been worse for her."

Howman wore a T-shirt showing the girl's photo. A note on the back of the shirt requested 100 years in prison for the perpetrator.

The sentence was 80 years for Jason Harold Rose, a 35-year-old man who was convicted on one count of sexual intercourse without consent. The hearing took place in Yellowstone County District Court.

District Judge Michael Moses included a parole restriction of 20 years in the sentence.

Rose was charged in 2016, a year after the victim reported to a child care provider that she'd been raped. That caretaker was Miracle Browning Stapp, whose voice grew louder as she addressed Rose directly during testimony on Tuesday.

"Why?" she said. "That's all I want to know. You ruined a little girl's youth."

A medical exam of the girl showed serious sexual trauma, according to court documents. It was painful evidence to review for Judge Moses, who had also handled a child abuse and neglect case involving Rose.

"The court will never forget that testimony," he said.

Rose initially denied the charges. Michael Sullivan, a licensed clinical social worker called by defense attorneys, said that Rose's struggle with honesty was remarkable. 

In June, Rose pleaded guilty to the rape charge as part of a plea agreement. Prosecutors sought 100 years in prison. Defense attorneys asked for a quarter of that time with a suspended sentence afterward.

The defense also suggested a parole restriction until 2029, which is when the girl turns 18.

Moses disagreed, reinforcing the 20-year parole restriction with the 80-year sentence. Rose will also be required to complete a prison-based treatment program.

Montana sentencing guidelines suggest that the seriousness of a punishment should reflect the effects of a convict's actions. Moses attempted to weigh the guideline against acts that will affect the victim for a lifetime.

"There's not enough punishment to be commensurate with the harm caused," he said.

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General Assignment Reporter

Reporter for The Billings Gazette.