Nearly 84,000 people have signed an online petition calling for a US judge's impeachment after he handed down a 60-day sentence for a man guilty of repeatedly raping his prepubescent daughter.
Judge John McKeon has defended the light sentence, saying psychiatric treatment, and not excessive prison time, will encourage the man's rehabilitation and reintegration into society.
The Glasgow, Montana man pleaded guilty to the crime, which carries a mandatory 25-year sentence by state law - 100 years with 75 suspended. But Judge McKeon issued a 30-year suspended prison sentence, which the man will only serve should he fail to meet his probation conditions.
The conditions include the requirement to register as a sex offender, the Glasgow Courier reports. He will also have limited internet access and no access to pornography. Additionally, the man will serve 60-days in jail, minus the 17 he had already served, meaning he will spend another 43 days in prison.
The judge told the Associated Press his sentence is an exception to the mandatory 25-year sentence, which the law allows for incest cases involving someone younger than 12 when a psychosexual evaluation shows treatment "affords a better opportunity for rehabilitation to the offender and for the ultimate protection of the victim and society".
Judge McKeon says he also received letters from the victim's mother and grandmother, urging him not to sentence the man to prison.
But attorney Dylan Jensen told the Associated Press no one had spoken on behalf of the victim at the sentencing hearing.
"The victim was not given justice, but instead will have to live with the fear that she still has to face her rapist in their community," the petition reads.
But Judge McKeon defended his decision.
"All district judges take an oath to uphold the Constitution and laws of this state," Judge McKeon wrote. "These constitutional provisions and laws include certain fundamental legal principles that apply at sentencing, including a presumption of innocence for unproved criminal allegations, the varying sentencing policies and the government's burden to counter evidence supporting an exception to mandatory sentence."
If the petition reaches 150,000 signatures, it will be delivered to Chief Clerk of the Montana House of Representatives Lindsey Grovom.
Judge McKeon is expected to retire soon after serving as a state judge for 22 years, making it unlikely he would be impeached.