A Three Forks man accused of raping a young girl multiple times over many years was sentenced Monday to 60 years in prison.
Robert Sapien, 40, pleaded guilty in Gallatin County District Court last month to two felonies: sexual intercourse without consent and sexual abuse of children. His plea agreement dismissed two other felony sex charges.
In addition to having sex with the girl starting when she was young, as the now teen girl testified Monday, Sapien was also accused of compelling his friend, Jason Jay Norris, to have sex with her and videotaping the act.
Norris, also of Three Forks, was arrested in January. Charged with sexual intercourse without consent, Norris remains in jail on $50,000 bail.
The girl, who now lives in California, appeared in court via video and gave halting testimony, asking for time to collect herself before answering County Attorney Marty Lambert's questions.
“I strongly feel that for what he has done to me and my family that he shouldn't have freedom,” the girl said.
Defense attorney John Hud declined to question the girl, saying his client “feels she's already been through enough.”
Saying he's “awfully ashamed” of what he has done, Sapien apologized in court.
“I've realized how much damage I've caused and how much pain I've caused,” he said. “I wish I could fix the damages I have caused.”
Lambert disputed a psychosexual evaluation used for reference in sentencing Sapien, saying it was too forgiving.
Sapien “describes her as the initiator of the sex,” Lambert said. “Blaming the victim is a standard thing in sex crimes, and we have it here in spades.”
He asked Salvagni to sentence Sapien to 80 years in prison.
Hud asked Salvagni for a 50-year sentence as had been negotiated with former prosecutors.
But Salvagni, reading from the victim's statement, noted discrepancies between Sapien's and the girl's testimony, mostly about how old the girl was when the assaults began.
“Keep this monster, madman away from me,” she'd written, pleading with Salvagni to give Sapien a harsh sentence.
Calling Sapien's behavior morally depraved, appalling, disgusting, disgraceful, reprehensible, outrageous and shocking, Salvagni said the crime requires a long prison sentence. He sentenced Sapien to 60 years in prison for each of the two crimes to be served concurrently.
The judge also ordered that Sapien successfully complete a sexual offender program in prison before being considered for parole. If he is released, Sapien will not be permitted to have contact with children under 16 and will be required to register as a level 2 sexual offender with a moderate risk to reoffend.