Mitchell Scott Patterson

Mitchell Scott Patterson, 33, appears via video Wednesday in Gallatin County Justice Court on charges that he tried to "brainwash" a girl to deny their alleged sexual relationship.

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A Great Falls man tried to “brainwash” his 12-year-old victim into recanting allegations he had sex with her, prosecutors said on Wednesday.

Mitchell Scott Patterson, 33, is charged with felony tampering with a witness. He appeared via video Wednesday in Gallatin County Justice Court before Judge Rick West.

Patterson is also charged in Gallatin County District Court with sexual intercourse without consent and sexual abuse of children, both felonies. Court documents allege Patterson had sex with the girl multiple times and sent her explicit photos of himself.

He is scheduled to enter a plea in district court on Friday for the rape and abuse charges. Until then, he is being held at the Gallatin County jail on $600,000 bail.

In April, a man reported his daughter had been sneaking out at night, running away frequently and was having sex with Patterson, according to charging documents.

The father told detectives about one instance when the girl left behind a “secret phone” she used to message Patterson. Court documents say the girl’s mother messaged Patterson, demanding he return the girl and warned Patterson that he could be charged with statutory rape because of the girl’s age.

Police said Patterson replied that he wasn’t having sex with the girl and that he was in high school. Patterson brought the girl home 30 minutes after the exchange of messages.

The girl’s father later contacted authorities to report explicit photos Patterson sent to the girl, court documents say.

The detective later found a “secret phone” and messages between the girl and Patterson, court documents said. Police said the phone had several photos of the girl and Patterson kissing, and other explicit photos Patterson sent the girl. Police said other messages referenced their age difference and the need for secrecy and deception to continue their relationship.

The girl later told authorities that she and Patterson had sex numerous times, according to charging documents.

On May 1, the detective called Patterson and notified him about a warrant for his arrest. The detective also told Patterson there was an active order of protection for the girl he was accused of raping and not to contact her. Patterson told the detective he would turn himself but never did.

The following day, court documents say, the girl’s parents told the detective that Patterson messaged the girl via Instagram. The girl’s father photographed the exchange and the conversation was included in court documents.

The detective noted there were numerous instances when Patterson “compelled” the girl to change her testimony. Police said other messages show Patterson being more direct in asking the alleged victim to deny her testimony to detectives.

The detective said messages between Patterson and the girl indicate that the two planned to run away together if their relationship was discovered. Court documents say the girl suggested Patterson live in an abandoned house near her home where she could provide him with supplies.

In the exchange, Patterson messaged the girl that he loved her, wanted to be with her and that she will likely be called to testify against him, according to charging documents.

“So if u don’t want that. Tell them you’re not going to and we never hooked up,” Patterson messaged the girl.

Montana Highway Patrol arrested Patterson several days later.

In court on Wednesday, prosecutor Jaydan Johnson said Patterson is a threat to juveniles with access to a computer in the United States. He said Patterson has attempted to brainwash the girl to the point where she is now being held in custody.

“It has been a massive effort by the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office to keep Mr. Patterson from kidnapping the victim,” Johnson said.

He said there’s nothing in charging documents that indicates the offense was a mistake. Interviews with Patterson’s employer, Johnson said, show that Patterson had planned to avoid arrest until he made enough money to post bail.

Johnson said Patterson acted inappropriately when detectives informed him of the girl’s age and of the offenses he allegedly committed.

“He attempted to act like a teenager himself and said he was grounded by his parents for this activity,” Johnson said.

Defense attorney Mary Kramer did not argue for a lower bail.

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Freddy Monares can be reached at fmonares@dailychronicle.com or at 406-582-2630.

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