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GREAT FALLS — A Montana judge has rejected a plea agreement that called for a man who was charged with raping a 6-year-old girl to be sentenced to five years with the Department of Corrections - a sentence that would not guarantee prison time or sexual offender treatment.

Cascade County Attorney Josh Racki said Wednesday he reached the agreement allowing Joseph Allan Counts to plead guilty to sexual assault because it would be difficult for the girl to testify.

Court records say Counts told officers and his father that he raped and sexually assaulted the girl. He was charged in March 2018.

The Great Falls Tribune reports District Judge John Pinski said he had to balance possible harm to the girl against possible harm to the community if he accepted the plea.

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Pinski urged both sides to continue plea negotiations.

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