SANDPOINT — Two young Bonner County men accused of raping an intoxicated pair of 15-year-old girls last year were ordered Friday to serve up to 10 years in prison.
First District Judge Barbara Buchanan, however, agreed to retain jurisdiction over Perry Pershing Howard and Mitchell Eugene Wallace. That means the duo will serve up to year in an Idaho Department of Correction facility in Cottonwood before a decision is made to release them onto probation or order them to serve the 10-year term, the first three years of which are fixed.
Howard, 18, and Wallace, 19, were accused of raping one 15-year-old girl last June and another 15-year old last September. They also faced lewd conduct charges in connection with the latter case. Howard was further charged with sexual abuse of a child for allegedly shooting a video of himself having sex with the teen in September and posting it to social media.
Howard ultimately entered into a plea agreement which Buchanan agreed to bind herself to, which basically guaranteed that jurisdiction would be retained.
Howard pleaded guilty to two counts of rape and the lewd conduct and sex abuse charges were dismissed in exchange for the pleas, court records indicate.
Wallace entered Alford pleas to two counts of rape and the lewd conduct charge was dismissed. Under such a plea, Wallace admits no wrongdoing but concedes he could be convicted if his cases went before a jury.
Howard’s defense counsel, Sandpoint attorney Bryce Powell, said his client initially failed to appreciate the gravity of his offenses, but that has changed.
“He has since come to appreciate how exactly how serious they are,” said Powell.
Powell argued in court documents that while Howard has reached the age of majority in the eyes of the law, emerging neuroscientific research has demonstrated that the human brain isn’t fully developed until a person reaches their early 20s. As a result, youthful offenders can lack the capacity for adult-level reasoning.
Wallace’s counsel, Chief Deputy Public Defender Susie Jensen adopted a similar argument.
“He is trying to live with the consequences of his actions,” said Jensen.
But Buchanan noted that the nature of Wallace’s pleas allowed him to maintain his innocence.
“You’re not taking full responsibility for what happened in these cases,” said Buchanan, who called the misconduct “horrendous.”
Buchanan added that case will have lifelong consequences for the teenage girls and their families.
Wallace and Howard, meanwhile, will be haunted by the lifelong consequence of having to register as sex offenders.