Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Man gets rehab chance in child-injury case

Defendant originally charged with rape of 14-year-old girl


By TERRY SMITH
Express Staff Writer

Christopher Walter Downhill

A 20-year-old Bellevue man will get a chance at rehabilitation following sentencing Monday for felony injury to a child.
    Christopher Walter Downhill was originally charged with rape for allegedly having sex with a 14-year-old girl in Bellevue in 2012. He pleaded guilty in June to the lesser charge in accord with a plea agreement with the Blaine County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.
    At a sentencing hearing in Blaine County 5th District Court, Judge Robert J. Elgee ordered that Downhill be committed to the Idaho Department of Correction “rider program,” where convicted felons are offered an opportunity for rehabilitation rather than going to prison. Rider sentences can last for up to a year, but can be revoked by the Department of Correction if rehabilitation is deemed not to be working.
    Elgee also gave Downhill a six-year suspended prison sentence and ordered him to pay $240.50 in court fees. He further ordered that Downhill undergo sex-offender treatment in the rider program, even though Downhill was not convicted of a sex offense and will not be required to register as a sex offender.
    The rider program, also referred to as “retained jurisdiction,” was recommended to the judge by Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Matt Fredback, although Fredback expressed skepticism that Downhill could successfully complete the program. Fredback noted that Downhill has several previous misdemeanor convictions and said: “There is a whole underlying layer of criminal tendencies.”
    Elgee told the defendant that if he is not successful at rehabilitation then the Department of Correction could revoke retained jurisdiction and put him in prison to serve his sentence.
    “Nobody wants you in prison; the prosecutor’s saying send him to get fixed,” Elgee said.
    Downhill had remained free on $15,000 bond prior to being taken into custody at the conclusion of Monday’s hearing.
Terry Smith: tsmith@mtexpress.com




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