Dennis Ray Jensen of Sheridan was committed to the Montana Department of Corrections and sentenced to 30 years with 25 suspended on Friday evening after a nine-hour hearing at the Madison County Court House in Virginia City. He was taken into custody after the hearing.
The Honorable Judge Loren Tucker told everyone in attendance that he did not come to his decision easily and took into consideration testimony brought forward during the day and evidence brought forward then and from when the allegations were first made in July of last year. Jensen, 61, was charged with three counts of sexual assault, a felony on July 26, 2012. The incidents were reported to have occurred during May and June 2012.
In addition to the incarceration, 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. Jensen does not have to pay any other fines except the ones imposed by legislature that total $80. 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.
Under state law, the maximum penalty for sexual assault varies by the victim’s age. If the victim is less than 16-years-old and the defendant is four or more years older than the victim, the defendant shall be punished by life imprisonment or by imprisonment in the state prison for a term not less than four years or more than 100 years and may be fined not more than $50,000.
Jensen originally pled not guilty to the charges in August 2012, and then he entered an Alford plea of guilty to one count of sexual assault, a felony, in February 2013. According to the affidavit for probable cause in the case, Jensen allegedly grabbed three girls inappropriately inside his Main Street business in Sheridan. The girls were between 11 and 12 years old at the time of the incident, and the alleged victims were all included in the 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 in which a 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.”
The Adult Probation and Parole Bureau completed a pre-sentence investigation after Jensen’s change of plea. It included a psychosexual evaluation. Claris Yuhas, a parole officer who prepared the pre-sentence investigation and testified in court on Friday, said last month that Jensen’s severe medical problems caused the pre-sentence investigation to take a considerable amount of time as well as the psychosexual evaluation. Pre-sentence investigations are done on felonies after a conviction via court occurs. They go into background on the person like prior criminal behavior, other past counseling done and other personal data so the sentence would work for the suspect, according to Madison County Undersheriff Roger Thompson. He said that in this case, a professional in private practice also did a psychosexual evaluation so Jensen could be tiered in the state tier system for chance of re-offending and the appropriate counseling can be ordered.
More information about Jensen’s sentencing will be available in the Nov. 21 issue of The Madisonian.