Kidnapper given 10-year prison term

Judge Tucker hands down maximum sentence to Goulet on violent offense
Convicted kidnapper Joseph Clinton Goulet leaves District Court for the Beaverhead County Jail and awaits a decision from the Montana State Prison on his residential arrangements for the next ten years. To Goulet’s left is public defender Walter Hennessey and behind Goulet is County Attorney Jed Fitch. J.P. Plutt photo

 

The prosecutor, the victim and almost 25 family members and friends in court, the probation officer and even the defendant felt 10 years was a fair sentence for Fifth Judicial District Judge Loren Tucker to give Joseph Clinton Goulet on the charge of felony kidnapping. To be fair, Goulet and his attorney requested that seven of the 10 years be suspended, but Judge Tucker ruled on the side of everyone else in attendance at Beaverhead County Courthouse and sentenced Goulet to a full 10 year term with Montana State Prison.

The sentencing hearing for Goulet Tuesday morning followed a change of plea and plea agreement entered on March 11, between Beaverhead County Attorney Jed Fitch and public defenders, Walter M. Hennessey and John Mawabowski. In the agreement, a felony count of aggravated assault was amended to a misdemeanor charge of assault, and Goulet entered a plea of “nolo contendre” or no contest to the charge of felony kidnapping. The parties did not agree upon a sentencing recommendation.

The felony kidnapping charge carries a sentencing range of two to 10 years. Felony assault carries a maximum penalty of 20 years, while the maximum jail time for the misdemeanor charge is six months in the county jail.

In his opening statement, Fitch made a case for the maximum 10 year sentence, while Hennessey felt the sentence should be served at a facility in Lewistown more appropriate for Goulet’s medical needs and that seven years of the sentence should be suspended.

The defense team did not object to any of the facts presented by the prosecutor or his witnesses. Fitch called Adult Probation/Parole Officer Claris Yuhas who conducted the pre-sentence investigation (PSI), and the victim.

On October 17, 2013, Goulet lured the victim to a local motel my pretending to be the victim’s current boyfriend. The victim and defendant had dated for “one month and two days,” but the relationship had ended. When the victim knocked on the motel room door, Goulet grabbed her, dragged her into the room, and physically assaulted her, eventually rendering her unconscious. At the time, Goulet was 33 and the victim was 22.

Goulet then loaded the unconscious victim into his vehicle and transported her to a remote area outside of Missoula. Two of Goulet’s relatives alerted the Missoula County Sheriff’s Department of their concerns and Goulet was soon arrested and the victim was hospitalized.

In court on Tuesday, Yuhas revealed through questioning from Fitch that Goulet’s criminal history began at the age of 19 in Texas, where he was convicted of at least three felony crimes, including aggravated assault. He served jail time and probation and for a time remained clear of the law until a 2011 DUI conviction. He left Texas for Montana and in 2013 was found guilty of criminal trespass and just two months before the kidnapping, was found guilty of failing to comply with the terms of his sentence.

Yuhas said Goulet could not work and was on disability because he was HIV positive and had heart problems. In a statement from Goulet contained in the PSI, he admitted that he has had “full blown Aids” since 2011.

Yuhas said the victim was choked and hit at the Dillon motel and, “I’m pretty sure she was choked into unconsciousness. She woke up in Missoula.”

In describing the victim, Yuhas said, “She’s a sweet, young lady. When you talk to her you realize she has a mental disability. She’s too trusting.”

Yuhas added that the victim’s description of the events of Oct. 17, 2013 were substantially different than Goulet’s initial telling. “He claimed she showed up at the motel all beat up and that she was the one that wanted to go to Missoula,” said Yuhas, who added that Goulet claimed he drank a 30-pack of beer over a seven hour period before the crime.

“Did it seem like he was blaming this event on alcohol?” asked Fitch.

“Yes,” replied Yuhas.

Yuhas concluded her testimony by saying that Goulet had no means to pay restitution, that she agreed with Fitch’s recommendation of a 10 year prison sentence and that Goulet should be required to register as a violent offender upon his release from prison.

 

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