A young Butte man admitted Wednesday that he had sex with a 15-year-old girl without her consent and pleaded guilty to a felony charge of sexual intercourse without consent.
Trey Daniel Bennett, who was 18 when the crime occurred last October, had previously pleaded not guilty but changed that during a hearing before District Judge Robert Whelan. The judge accepted the guilty plea, ordered a presentence investigation and set sentencing for Oct. 14.
In the plea agreement, prosecutors are recommending Bennett be sentenced to seven years at the Montana State Prison with all seven years suspended. Judges typically go along with plea deals but they are not bound by them and sometimes hand down harsher sentences.
In this case, the conviction carries a maximum 20-year prison term and fine up to $50,000. Suspended sentences can be revoked if defendants violate probation terms, and prosecutors can cancel the deal if Bennett breaks any laws before sentencing.
Bennett, who turns 19 on Thursday, told police he and the girl had sex regularly, but she told police he forced himself on her twice on Oct. 12 and Oct. 13. Regardless, under Montana law, a person under the age of 16 cannot consent to sexual intercourse.
The girl says Bennett pinned her down and had sex with her one night even though she repeatedly told him no. He forced himself on her the second night, she said, but she was able to fight him off after a short time. He wouldn’t let her leave but she says she got out when he went to put his clothes on and first contacted a friend.
The girl was examined at St. James Healthcare and underwent a forensic interview at the Child Evaluation Center in Butte.
Bennett is free on bond but has been under house arrest and must wear a GPS-tracking device. At the request of his attorney, Whelan is letting him visit his grandmother, as well as his grandfather’s grave site, on Thursday.
The attorney, Andrew Jenks, also asked that the GPS requirement be removed pending sentencing, but Whelan wants that in writing before ruling on the request.