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Convicted rapist given new sentence

by DERRICK PERKINS
Daily Inter Lake | September 21, 2022 12:00 AM

A convicted rapist is headed back to Montana State Prison after Flathead County District Court Judge Amy Eddy last week revoked his sentence for a second time.

Eddy handed down a 27 year sentence — with 17 years suspended — to 59-year-old James Pallone Heitman following a Sept. 16 disposition hearing. Heitman broke the terms of his suspended sentence when he departed Montana for Pennsylvania months after leaving state prison, according to court documents. Authorities caught up to him after Heitman checked into a hospital as a patient.

Heitman admitted the violation under questioning from his defense attorney, Maury Solomon, telling the court he planned to end his life and wanted to do it somewhere familiar.

“I just wanted to go back home,” Heitman said.

Heitman received a 40 year sentence in the Montana State Prison for the rape of a 13-year-old girl in 2006 with 32 of those years suspended. Originally charged with sexual intercourse without consent, sexual assault and incest, Heitman pleaded guilty to the former felony after reaching a deal with prosecutors.

He began the suspended portion of his sentence in 2014, but returned to court in 2017 after being accused of violating the terms of his release. After revoking his sentence, Eddy sent him to prison for 32 years with 27 of those suspended.

He was released from state prison again in February of this year. But by July, he had gone missing, according to a report filed by his probation and parole officer, Heather Edwards, who testified at last week’s hearing.

Edwards said authorities had learned that Heitman was using a phone to view pornography, a violation of his conditions. When he departed the state, all he did in terms of notification was leave a suicide note, she said.

Edwards described Heitman as a flight risk as well as a safety risk to himself and others.

“[Heitman] has struggled on supervision,” she said under questioning from Deputy County Attorney Amy Kenison. “He has struggled with mental health. We have made attempts to address that … however, we have not been successful.”

Prior to Edward’s testimony, Heitman reported struggling with medically resistant depression. While he told the court he suspected prison would lack the resources to address those problems, Edwards said a prison setting would ensure he received care.

“The defendant struggles in the community,” she said. “It’s important he gets the help he needs.”

Eddy followed the joint recommendation offered by Solomon and Kenison, revoking Heitman’s current sentence and giving him another 27 years — with 17 suspended — in state prison. She also gave him street time credit of 151 days and credit for 25 days of time served.

Solomon asked for additional credit noting that when Heitman returned to Montana, he attempted to turn himself in to authorities in Yellowstone County, but the jail there was booked full. Unable to surrender, Heitman checked in daily until space opened up, Solomon said.

Eddy, though, kept to the recommendation.

As of Sept. 20, Heitman remained in the Flathead County Detention Center.

News Editor Derrick Perkins can be reached at 758-4430 or dperkins@dailyinterlake.com.

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