A Blaine County man who confessed to multiple sexual encounters with his 12-year-old niece was sentenced Monday in Blaine County 5th District Court to 24 years in prison.
Judge Robert J. Elgee ruled that 48-year-old Blake Lee Walton, who last lived in the Picabo area, must serve 14 years behind bars before he is eligible for parole. Walton pleaded guilty last October to two counts of lewd conduct with a minor child under 16.
The convictions require that Walton register as a sex offender.
Walton has remained incarcerated in the Blaine County jail since his arrest in May 2008 by the Blaine County Sheriff's Office. A criminal complaint filed against him states that the sex acts occurred between September and December of 2007.
"I recognize that Mr. Walton has no criminal record," said Blaine County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Matt Fredback. "But factually what you have here is a 48-year-old man and a 12-year-old victim and this went on for a long period of time.
"He knew it was wrong. This is a man who knew what he was doing. He planned and successfully carried it out on several occasions."
Fredback said Walton made video recordings of several of the sexual encounters and stored the recordings on his computer.
The girl and several members of her family attended the sentencing hearing. The girl asked for leniency for her uncle.
"I don't agree how long you're putting him in jail and how long his probation is," said the girl, who cried while making her statement. "I think that is too long."
Walton also broke into tears while the girl spoke and offered an apology for his actions.
"I need to tell the parents and my niece that I'm sorry," Walton said. "I take full responsibility. It was not her fault."
Elgee shaved one year off the 25-year sentence recommended by the prosecuting attorney's office.
"I recognize the victim doesn't agree with the recommended sentence and that has to be taken into account," the judge said.
The recommended sentence was a "stipulated" agreement between prosecutors and Walton and his defense attorney, Kevin Cassidy. In exchange for agreement, federal authorities agreed not to file "manufacturing child pornography" charges against Walton. That offense is punishable by a minimum of 15 years in prison.
"The only reason we agreed to that is that the feds could have hammered him a lot harder," Cassidy said in an interview.
Terry Smith: firstname.lastname@example.org