Donaldson asks MT Supreme Court to review prison sentence


MISSOULA, Mont. - A former University of Montana football player convicted of rape is asking for a more lenient sentence.

Beau Donaldson was sentenced to 30 years in prison with 20 years suspended in January, for raping a friend while she slept on his couch in 2010.

The Montana Supreme Court Sentence Review Division opened Donaldson's files on Monday. The application for review was filed with the court last Thursday.

Donaldson had 60 days from his sentence to make the request. Next, he and his attorneys will sit in front of the sentence review board. It's made up of three judges who hold the hearings at the state prison four times a year, the next being May 2.

They'll hear the request from Donaldson and have a chance to deliberate. They can choose to decrease the sentence, but they can also increase it if they feel it's necessary.

Donaldson's attorney Milt Datsopoulos said it's a risk they're willing to take and one he's discussed with Donaldson and his family.

"We feel so strongly that this sentence for this particular person with the facts involved in this case is clearly excessive," Datsopoulos said.

A staff member at the Sentence Review Division said last November the judges heard requests from two people convicted of sexual assault crimes. In both cases they increased the sentence.

Datsopoulos said he's concerned, but doesn't see that happening in this case, partially because Donaldson doesn't have any prior offenses on his record.

"Beau Donaldson has never had a problem in his life," Datsopoulos said. "There are other ways to punish without putting a young person in prison."

Datsopoulos said he'll approach the hearing with specific outlines of punishments he thinks are more suitable for Donaldson.

The Missoula County Attorney's Office has the option to appear at the review hearing as well. Deputy County Attorney Shaun Donovan said his office will spend some time deciding on how to approach the hearing, but he said it would be very unlikely for them to change their mind on the decision.

"At this point because of the effort put in, it would be really unlikely for our position to change," Donovan said. "We came to a plea agreement after considering a lot of facts."

The County Attorney's Office can choose not to take a position at all. They can also submit a response in writing or send someone to appear in person at the hearing to ask that the sentence be affirmed. Donovan said the victim will also be notified about hearing and she will have the option to attend.

The next review hearing is scheduled for May 2, that's when Donaldson is scheduled to appear.  

NBC Montana will keep you updated.

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