Donald Gingras pleads guilty

Donald Dale Gingras, right, listens to District Judge Robert Whelan on Wednesday before Gingras pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting a 6-year-old girl in Butte. To the left is Gingras's public defender, Josh Demers.

A Lake County man with a long prison record will be sentenced to at least 10 more years after admitting Wednesday that he sexually assaulted a young girl in Butte this past October.

Only two weeks after first pleading not guilty to sexual intercourse without consent in the case involving a 6-year-old girl, Donald Dale Gingras pleaded guilty to the charge before District Judge Robert Whelan. The judge ordered a presentence investigation and set sentencing for March 13.

Gingras, 60, faces a minimum of 10 years in prison because of the girl’s age and a maximum of life or 100 years.

He has a lengthy criminal record, including a conviction for attempted deliberate homicide, and served more than 20 years in prison before last being paroled in 2014.

Prosecutors say Gingras was living in St. Ignatius, 75 miles south of Kalispell, when he visited the girl’s grandmother in Butte on Oct. 25. The grandmother said he was a family friend so she let him sleep on the couch that night, with the girl in another room.

A few days after his visit, the 6-year-old girl described a sexual assault to her grandmother, who went to police with information about the acts. The girl said Gingras told her not to say anything but she later told her grandma everything and also told a teacher, prosecutors say.

A Butte detective went to Polson on Nov. 9 to speak to Gingras with his probation officer present, prosecutors say. Gingras said that during the night in Butte, he awoke to find the girl on top of him “trying to kiss him like a woman would kiss a man and was naked.”

Gingras denied all of the acts alleged by the girl and said he got out of the house as soon as possible the next morning because he was uncomfortable with the situation. But he was ultimately arrested and charged.

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Gingras was convicted of attempted deliberate homicide in 1991 after a stabbing in a Kalispell bar. He escaped from jail while awaiting sentencing but was arrested several weeks later at a trailer park in Washington state, according to newspaper accounts.

He was sentenced to 85 years in prison, in part because he was a persistent felony offender, according to the Montana Department of Corrections.

On appeal, he was resentenced in 2011 to 75 years but was given credit for time already served and was paroled from Montana State Prison the next year. He was returned to prison in 2013 after violating parole but was paroled again in 2014.

Gingras told Whelan Wednesday that his guilty plea was voluntary and that he understood the maximum sentence he faces.

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Government and politics reporter

Mike Smith is a reporter at the Montana Standard with an emphasis on government and politics.

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