RED LODGE — A 22-year-old Bridger man was sentenced Thursday for having sex with three teenage girls and possessing child pornography.
Carbon County District Judge Blair Jones ordered Daniel Sheldon Witt to spend 20 years in the custody of the state Department of Corrections, with 15 years suspended, for three counts of felony sexual intercourse without consent.
Jones ordered Will to serve a concurrent 10-year suspended sentence for a felony charge of sexual abuse of children.
Jones also declared Witt a Level II sex offender, the middle tier on the state’s three-tier system used to designated the future risk a sex offender poses.
Jones imposed the sentence after hearing lengthy testimony from three witnesses and a statement from one of the victims who said Witt’s actions have caused her to fear all men.
“I am now very hateful toward men, even men I don’t know, because I become scared,” the girl said in the statement.
Witt was charged with the crimes last September following an investigation that began when his underage girlfriend reported that he had forced her to have sexual intercourse.
During the investigation, authorities found sexually explicit pictures of a 14-year-old girl who later admitted she had consensual sex with Witt.
Authorities also said they found pornographic pictures and video of children as young as 5 downloaded on Witt’s computer. A third underage teenage victim surfaced during the investigation.
Witt admitted to the charges in March without the benefit of a plea agreement. He apologized Thursday to the victims, his family and friends.
County Attorney Alex Nixon recommended Witt receive a total sentence of 15 years at Montana State Prison, with five years suspended. Nixon said Witt deserved the prison sentence because of the number of victims and the serious nature of the crimes.
Witt’s attorney, Vern Woodward, argued for a suspended sentence, saying Witt is a young man with no prior record. Witt is employed and has been participating in sex-offender treatment since November, Woodward said. Jones said the sentence he imposed would provide Witt a chance to be evaluated by corrections officials for placement in a pre-release center where he could continue with his current treatment program. It is possible, though, the judge said, that Witt will serve some time in prison.
Regardless, Jones said, Witt’s life and the life of the victims has been forever changed. He noted a lengthy list of conditions that Witt must abide by during his sentence, including prohibitions against contact with children.
Jones also said he was disturbed that an otherwise trouble-free young man from a good family would cause such harm to himself and others. He put some of the blame on what he said is a popular culture that promotes sexuality and violence.