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Former Montana Tech football player pleads guilty to rape

Derek Nygaard in court

Derek Nygaard leans into a microphone while answering questions from District Judge Kurt Krueger on Thursday, when he admitted raping two women in Butte last year and pleaded guilty to sexual intercourse without consent. Defense attorney David Maldonado is also at the podium.

A 19-year-old Clancy man who played football for Montana Tech admitted Thursday that he raped two women in Butte last year.

Derek James Nygaard was charged with two counts of sexual intercourse without consent, but in an agreement with prosecutors, pleaded guilty to a single count Thursday before District Judge Kurt Krueger.

Krueger ordered a presentence investigation and will set sentencing after it has been completed. He said he also wants to see findings of a psychosexual evaluation.

Nygaard could be sentenced up to 20 years in the Montana State Prison and fined up to $50,000.

He appeared for Thursday’s change-of-plea hearing with his attorney, David Maldonado, and admitted to having sex with two different people without their consent. He will remain free on bond pending sentencing unless he violates release conditions.

Nygaard was a student at Montana Tech in the 2020 fall semester but was no longer enrolled there or still a member of the football team when prosecutors filed charges this past March. The university said privacy laws prohibited them from releasing any other information on him.

According to charging documents, a woman came to the Butte police station on Oct. 13, 2020, and said Nygaard had made sexual advances on three separate occasions between Sept. 14 and Sept. 18. During the third one, he prevented her from leaving his residence and violated her with his finger.

She said she felt ashamed that it happened and felt compelled to tell police after she found out there might be another victim.

Montana Tech had already initiated Title IX proceedings, a civil complaint process for addressing claims of sexual assault or sexual violence, and gave Butte police statements about the alleged incidents, prosecutors say.

During their investigation, police contacted another potential victim and after some time, that woman agreed to speak with a detective.

She said she and Nygaard had been in a short-term relationship in August 2020 but it ended and they didn’t communicate much until the end of September, when he started making comments about self-harm.

He sent her a social media missive on Oct. 3 that year asking her to let him into her residence complex. She told police he appeared extremely drunk and had a hard time walking so she let him come to her residence.

She asked him to leave but he made sexual advances, pinned her hand against a bed, covered her mouth with another hand and raped her. She tried to call someone for help at one point but he took her phone, prosecutors say.

On Wednesday before District Judge Robert Whelan, a 36-year-old Butte man who was accused of brutally beating a man and then raping a woman, was sentenced to 10 years in prison on convictions for criminal endangerment.

In another case, a 21-year-old Butte man was sentenced to five years in custody of state prison officials for raping a 13-year-old girl in Butte in 2019.

Also Wednesday, a 43-year-old Butte man pleaded guilty to sexual intercourse without consent, admitting he raped a 15-year-old girl from Dillon. He is to be sentenced Jan. 12.

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