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Helena man sentenced to 35 years in prison for child rape
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Helena man sentenced to 35 years in prison for child rape

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John Wesley Buchanan

John Wesley Buchanan appears before Judge Kathy Seeley Wednesday in the Lewis and Clark County Courthouse.

A Helena man convicted of repeatedly having sexual contact with a girl under age 16 has been sentenced to 50 years in Montana State Prison with 15 years suspended for one count of sexual intercourse without consent.

John Wesley Buchanan will be credited for time served since his mid-September incarceration.

Buchanan was initially convicted of one count of sexual assault and one count of sexual intercourse without consent, both felonies. However, both the county attorney's office and the defense team included the wrong dates for when the crimes of the first count occurred in jury instructions, according to Lewis and Clark County Deputy Attorney Melissa Brock, who helped prosecute the case.

As such, District Judge Kathy Seeley sentenced Buchanan for the second count only. Both sides are due to submit briefs regarding a possible retrial for the first count by Feb. 19.

Seeley also ordered Buchanan to pay restitution for the therapy costs already incurred by the victim. Future therapy costs have yet to be determined. 

A Helena jury deliberated for seven hours before presenting the verdict Sept. 13 in Buchanan's five-day trial in Lewis and Clark County District Court.

The jury found Buchanan not guilty of two additional counts of sexual intercourse without consent.

The victim told interviewers Buchanan first began interacting with her in a sexual way when she was in middle school. Charging documents allege the offenses occurred between, on or about Jan. 1, 2012, and Sept. 25, 2017.

A conviction for sexual assault carries a punishment of up to life in prison and fine of up to $50,000. A conviction of sexual intercourse without consent carries a punishment of up to 100 years and fine of up to $50,000.

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