A Butte man who raped a 14-year-old girl multiple times before she was reported as a runaway and later found hiding in his house told a judge Thursday that she was “very mature for her age” and he was not a criminal.
“I’m not that person or that monster that some people have made me out to be,” 33-year-old Cody Eaton Allen told District Judge Kurt Krueger.
But prosecutor Samm Cox said Eaton had a daughter the same age as the victim and called his actions and text messages with the girl disgusting. The texts included talk of bondage, “pimping her out” and wanting to kill her parents, Cox said, and he also sent her a photo of his genitals.
After an hourlong hearing, Krueger agreed with Cox’s recommendations and sentenced Eaton to 50 years in the Montana State Prison, with 20 of them suspended.
“The defendant, just in the statement to the court right now, says he’s not a criminal, but this act is truly a criminal act,” Krueger said. “An individual doing this type of conduct is manipulating and causing sustained physical and mental harm to a minor child.”
Prosecutors had initially charged Eaton with four felonies but as part of a deal, he pleaded guilty to one rape charge after admitting he had sex with the girl in 2019 knowing she was only 14. He was 30 at the time.
His attorney, Ronald Piper, acknowledged the text messages included some “disturbing stuff” but said it was “just crazy talk” and there was never an effort to kill her parents. He argued for a lengthy suspended sentence with no prison time, saying Eaton had already served three years in jail. If there had to be prison time, he suggested 20 years with all but 15 suspended.
“Up to this point, it sounds like Mr. Eaton – he hasn’t led a perfect life but he’s led a primarily law-abiding life,” Piper said. “He was employed, he was productive, he made a mistake.”
Eaton was married when the crimes occurred and had two children with his wife at the time and a step-daughter who is now 14. His ex-wife and the step-daughter sent letters to the court asking for mercy, saying it was important he be reunited with the kids.
Sexual intercourse without consent, when the victim is under 16 years old and the defendant is at least four years older than the victim, carries a minimum sentence of four years in prison and up to life or 100 years. In Montana, anyone under 16 cannot legally consent to sex.
Eaton’s brother, 28-year-old Brandon Eaton, was sentenced in October to eight years in the Montana State Prison for fondling the breasts of a 15-year-old girl in Butte. He pleaded guilty to sexual assault.
As part of the plea agreement with Cody Eaton, prosecutors dropped two felony counts of sexual abuse of children for allegedly sending the girl sexually explicit photos of himself and having pictures of children engaged in sex on his cell phone. They carry maximum life terms.
He was also charged with one felony count of custodial interference for allegedly withholding the girl from her mother. It is punishable by up to 10 years but was also dropped.
The girl was reported as a runaway on Jan. 12, 2019, and her mother believed she might be with Eaton, prosecutors said in charging documents. Police went to his house on South Excelsior Street in Butte but did not find her there.
Eaton told police he was in the process of moving out, was home alone with his children and had not seen the girl in question in three weeks. One of Eaton’s children told a school official that her parents were breaking up because Eaton had sex with the 14-year-old girl.
On Jan. 15, police learned of a Facebook Messenger conversation between Eaton and the girl that indicated she might be hiding in the basement of his house.
Police returned there and found a mattress in a crawl space with a backpack that was full of clothes and the girl’s Montana ID card. Eaton was questioned again and ultimately said the girl was in his house, and police found her hiding under the headboard of his bed.
According to prosecutors, Eaton admitted to helping plan the runaway and said the girl had been at his house the entire time. He also admitted to previously sending her an image of his private parts.
During subsequent interviews, he admitted being attracted to the girl and having sex with her twice. But police say Facebook conversations between the two detailed numerous sexual encounters and one included a picture of the girl completely naked.
Prosecutors say Eaton initially felt he could be a “father figure” to the girl but “eventually developed a physical and sexual attraction to her.”
But after charges were filed, Eaton claimed that he couldn’t recall events that occurred during the time. He sought a second mental health evaluation that seriously delayed court proceedings, prosecutors say.
He later admitted to the offense, and in part because of that, clinical psychologist Michael Scolatti determined he was a low risk to reoffend and could safely be treated for sexual disorders in a community setting.
Scolatti testified to that via video Thursday, but Cox then read off a litany of text-message passages between Eaton and the girl. Scolatti said he had not seen many of them and agreed that some indicated Eaton was not forthcoming during his evaluations.
Eaton told the judge Thursday he “wasn’t making any excuses for myself,” but then said the girl was very mature for her age, he was not a criminal and was drinking heavily and had been introduced to drugs at the time.
“I think that drugs had a big impact on my decision-making,” he said via video from the Butte jail.
But Cox said Eaton was an adult who had planned the sexual encounters, and during some of them, the girl would leave her house to walk the dog, Eaton would pick her up and they would have sex in the car.
He said Eaton delayed the case for a long time claiming he couldn’t recall anything, then had a “Bugs Bunny epiphany when something fell on his head” and got his memory back.
Even then, Cox said, he kind of blamed the victim.
Cox said in the presentence investigation report, Eaton told the court “he just enjoyed the attention of the girl, who was the same age as his own daughter, and that he’s not a monster, and that if somebody had done this to his daughter, he’d kill him.”
“So he does have some understanding of how atrocious his behavior is here,” Cox said.