Dennis Ray Jensen of Sheridan was committed to the Montana Department of Corrections and sentenced to 30 years with 25 suspended on Friday, Nov. 15, after a nine-hour hearing at the Madison County Court House in Virginia City. He was taken into custody immediately after the hearing and is currently in the Gallatin County Jail.
“Mr. Jensen had time to prepare for eventual incarceration and will have to be taken into custody,” the Honorable Judge Loren Tucker said after Jensen’s attorney Stephanie Kruer asked for time so Jensen could get his affairs in order. The Montana Department of Corrections will decide the proper location for Jensen’s incarceration among the various correctional facilities in the state.
Tucker told everyone in attendance he did not come to his decision easily and took into consideration testimony and evidence brought forward during the day but also evidence brought forward when the allegations of sexual assault were first made in July of last year. Jensen, who is 61-years-old, was charged with three counts of sexual assault on July 26, 2012. The incidents were reported to have occurred during May and June 2012.
Jensen originally pled not guilty to the charges in August 2012. He then entered an Alford plea of guilty to one count of sexual assault, a felony, in February 2013. According to the affidavit of probable cause, Jensen was accused of grabbing three girls inappropriately inside his Main Street business in Sheridan. The girls were between 11 and 12 years of age at the time the charges were brought forward. The three victims were all included in one count of sexual assault. After the court accepted Jensen’s plea, a motion from the prosecution dismissed a second count of sexual abuse of children.
An Alford plea is similar to a no-contest plea in which the defendant admits that sufficient evidence exists with which the prosecution could likely convince a judge or jury to find the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. According to Montana law, “a person who knowingly subjects another person to any sexual contact without consent commits the offense of sexual assault.”
One victim, and family members of other victims, addressed the court to express how they were deeply hurt by Jensen’s actions and their hope that he would not be allowed to hurt anyone ever again.
“In one sense, the victims have been vindicated with the conviction,” Tucker said. “There is no need to be concerned something didn’t happen.”
Kruer called a number of witnesses—Jensen’s brother-in-law, son, one daughter and his wife—to the stand to testify about Jensen’s failing health and need to receive medical and sexual offender treatments in a community setting. He currently has heart problems, is a severe diabetic, has a prosthetic leg, kidney problems and is losing his eyesight, as well as possible cirrhosis of the liver. Jensen’s wife and all seven of his children were in the court room and told Tucker they would be willing to support their husband and father in any way possible. Claris Yuhas, a parole officer who testified in court on Friday, said she felt confident that Jensen’s medical needs could be provided for through the Montana Department of Corrections and any specialists they may need to bring in.
Jensen will not be eligible for parole until he has successfully completed phase one and two of sexual offender treatment. If paroled, he is to have no contact with minors except for his own grandchildren. He must also pay the victims and their families restitution in the amount of $3,137.07. He will get credit for one day served and have to register as a Tier 1 sex offender. Jensen was tiered that way because he is believed to be a low-risk offender.
Yuhas prepared the pre-sentence investigation for the Adult Probation and Parole Bureau after Jensen’s change of plea. It included a psychosexual evaluation, in which licensed clinical social worker Michael Sullivan said tests showed Jensen had sexual interest in pubescent and adult females as well as pre-pubescent females and males. Madison County Undersheriff Roger Thompson said that in this case, the psychosexual evaluation was used to determine how Jensen should be placed in the state’s sexual offender tier system.
Yuhas said Jensen showed no remorse for his actions when she talked to him. Kruer later disputed this claim and told the court there were significant changes in Jensen regarding acceptance and responsibility for his actions. He addressed the court near the end of the hearing.
“I am fully ashamed this happened in our community and take full responsibility for my actions.”