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Jensen sentence

Kent Roderick Jensen, 21, is taken into custody after Judge Gregory Todd sentenced him to 25 years to the Department of Corrections with 20 years suspended in Yellowstone County District Court on Wednesday. Jensen pled guilty to vehicular homicide after striking and killing motorcyclist Jashua James Fry in a 2016 vehicle accident.

BETHANY BAKER, Gazette Staff

A man who caused a crash that killed a motorcyclist in 2016 while under the influence of marijuana avoided prison time at his sentencing on Wednesday.

Kent Roderick Jensen, 21, received 25-year sentence with the Montana Department of Corrections with all but five years suspended. He pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide while under the influence in December.

That means he will be available for substance abuse and mental health treatment programs, rather than prison, for five years, followed by probation.

The sentence followed the recommendation of his defense attorney, Gregory Paskell, who argued that Jensen's age and lack of felony history makes him more responsive to treatment than prison.

"He either deals with reality, or the DOC will put him in prison," Paskell said.

He also cited Jensen's pre-sentence investigation, which said that "alternative sentencing" like treatment could be a safe punishment.

In addition to treatment, District Judge Gregory Todd ordered Jensen to speak at all Billings middle schools and high schools about his experience.

Jensen was 19 in March 2016 when he began to pull his vehicle out onto South Frontage Road. Jensen didn't see 31-year-old Jashua Fry, who was riding his motorcycle on Frontage.

The crash killed Fry at the scene.

Jensen stayed at the scene while his friend performed CPR on Fry, court documents say. Jensen also consented to a blood test, which later showed a THC concentration higher than the legal limit in Montana. Investigators later found that he'd been smoking marijuana that day.

During the case, Jensen's attorney tried to challenge the state's marijuana impairment standard, but Judge Todd dismissed the argument

The 23-month case was trying for Fry's family, especially his mother, who testified on Wednesday. 

Laura Tiller, Fry's mother, stepped up to the witness stand clutching a photo book filled with family photos. She held back tears just reciting her name. 

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Jensen Sentence

Laura Tiller, mother of Jashua James Fry, a motorcyclist killed last year, speaks during the sentencing of Kent Roderick Jensen after Jensen pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide in Yellowstone County District Court on Wednesday. Judge Gregory Todd sentenced Jensen to 25 years to the Department of Corrections with 20 years suspended.

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Jensen Sentence

Wayne Tiller, stepfather of Jashua James Fry, a motorcyclist killed last year, speaks during the sentencing of Kent Roderick Jensen after Jensen pled guilty to vehicular homicide in Yellowstone County District Court on Wednesday. Judge Gregory Todd sentenced Jensen to 25 years to the Department of Corrections with 20 years suspended.

Tiller gave personal stories about Fry — that he earned the nickname "Redneck" for his love of the outdoors, that his 16th-birthday wish was to go look for a job and that he loved his five kids.

When Jensen's case was drawn out more and more, Tiller said that her grieving process restarted.

"This has been a very long 23 months," she said. "Twenty-three months going through this."

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Jensen Sentence

Wayne and Laura Tiller, the stepfather and mother of Jashua James Fry, a motorcyclist killed last year, listen during the sentencing of Kent Roderick Jensen after Jensen pled guilty to vehicular homicide in Yellowstone County District Court on Wednesday. Judge Gregory Todd sentenced Jensen to 25 years to the Department of Corrections with 20 years suspended.

Testimony on Wednesday also included Jensen's mother, Jenny Erickson, who described Jensen as a lost young man. She said he used marijuana to escape life's ills, and this was the tragic consequence.

"Kent doesn't think he will ever do enough," she said. "He can never fix this situation."

Victoria Callendar, the prosecutor, had asked for 20 years in prison with probation to follow. She said Wednesday that to characterize the crash as an accident was insulting to Fry.

She highlighted the finding that Jensen had been a regular marijuana smoker since he was 13. In her sentencing memo, she called Jensen a "full-blown, practicing, untreated addict."

Jensen's sentence ultimately reflected the defense's wishes, but Judge Todd cautioned him. Jensen took a life, he said, and his success in the future depended in part on passing drug tests.

The gallery was filled with the family and friends of both Jensen and Fry.

"There is no one that wins here today," Todd said before giving the sentence. "Everyone loses. Everyone has lost."

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General Assignment Reporter

Reporter for The Billings Gazette.