Home Salt Lake City Press Releases 2014 Joseph Birdtail Sentenced to More Than 20 Years in Prison for Sexual Assault

Joseph Birdtail Sentenced to More Than 20 Years in Prison for Sexual Assault

U.S. Attorney’s Office January 17, 2014
  • District of Montana (406) 657-6101

The United States Attorney’s Office announced that during a federal court session in Great Falls, on January 17, 2014, before U.S. District Judge Brian M. Morris, Joseph Christopher Birdtail, 37, of Dodson, Montana, was sentenced to a term of 264 months’ imprisonment, a life term of supervised release, and a special assessment of $100. Birdtail was sentenced in connection with his May 16, 2013, guilty plea to abusive sexual contact.

In an Offer of Proof filed by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jessica Betley, the government stated it would have proved that the victim is the daughter of the defendant and the defendant's wife. In June 2012, the victim was approximately 1-and-a-half years old. On the morning of Friday, June 22, 2012, the victim's mother changed her diaper and did not notice any irregularities with the victim. The victim's mother left the house, located on the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation, around 11:30 a.m. to go serve lunch and sell items at a tribal function. The victim's mother left the victim at home alone with the defendant for approximately an hour-and-a-half before she returned around 1 p.m.

When the victim's mother returned home, she noticed the defendant was outside while the victim was inside. The victim's mother went inside and noticed the victim's diaper was not wet, which indicated the defendant may have changed the victim's diaper while the mother was gone. But the victim’s mother observed that the victim's anus was dilated and possibly bruised. The victim's mother confronted the defendant about whether he did something to the victim. The defendant denied any wrongdoing and told his wife to take the victim to the emergency room to be examined.

At the emergency room, the doctor noted that the victim's rectal opening was prominent and the rectal mucosa was red with perhaps small tears. The doctor called in the sexual assault nurse examiner (SANE). The SANE confirmed bruising of the rectum and perianal that was clearly visualized by alternative light sources and agreed that the victim had been sexually abused. The nurse noted bruising at the 4- and 5-o'clock positions through the use of an alternate light source.

The FBI interviewed the defendant in March 2012. The defendant told the agents that on June 22, 2012, he had been alone with the victim at his home. When he changed the victim's diaper, he "got the ugly urge" to touch the victim's anus with his right hand. He said he stuck the tip of his finger into the victim’s anus for approximately 10 seconds. This investigation was conducted by the Fort Belknap Tribes and the FBI.

U.S. Attorney Mike Cotter said, “This is a 22-year sentence, without parole, that reflects the seriousness of crimes against children, the most innocent and vulnerable of victims. Protection of children has been, and will remain, a top priority of the U.S. Attorney’s Office.”

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