BOZEMAN, Mont. -

According to Montana law, anyone serving a deferred sentence like John Goldberg did in the late '90s could have their criminal past sealed away. 


 you did do something bad, people should be able to see what you did," said Bozeman resident Colby Haugland.


 later assaulted a girlfriend, and at one point was ticketed for choking and strangling a different woman.

Years later, Goldberg's girlfriend Tammy Salle would end up murdered- with Goldberg the main suspect.

"The whole situation that occurred with John Goldberg and Tammy Salle is very tragic. I know both the families," said attorney Timothy McKeon.

McKeon represented Goldberg, and explained it was common practice at the time to dismiss the case and seal the documents for anyone who finished a deferred sentence. He said it's still standard today.

"The law was followed in the state of Montana" McKeon said.

But in 1999, the law also changed- requiring minimum prison time for certain violent crimes like Aggravated Assault.

And McKeon said wiping the record clean after serving a deferred sentence is part of the law for a reason.

"Part of the reason for that is to give people a second chance," he said. Plus, he said, there was no way to predict that the situation with Goldberg would end in such tragedy.

Prosecuting attorney Michael Grayson told NBC Montana that's not quite how he saw it.

In an email to NBC Montana, he said, "the deferred sentence that Mr. Goldberg received in 1998 was over the State's (my) objection."

When judge Mizner handed down that deferred sentence many years ago, Grayson wrote a motion to change the sentence. 

He suggested a six-year suspended sentence, which is much different than deferred. Records don't get sealed.

In a brief, he wrote "The State strongly believes that the Court lacks the power to impose a deferred sentence after a defendant has been given probation, revoked for beating his girlfriend, given a ten year prison sentence..."

He continues by saying allowing a deferred sentence for someone like Goldberg would make "all of the statutory language... that deferred sentences are in place to give first time felony offenders a one-time break becomes meaningless."

Judge Mizner did not agree, and kept the five-year deferred sentence which allowed Goldberg's slate to get wiped clean.

NBC Montana talked to Judge Mizner on Thursday. Though he couldn't recall the deatils, he said the lesser sentence for the violent crime probably stemmed from Goldberg's successful completion of a boot camp program.

Bottom line- there are no doubt other cases like Goldberg's out there.

For others who've had their files sealed- a local attorney tells us the legislature would have to change the law for that information to become public.