- Associated Press - Thursday, February 6, 2014

GREAT FALLS, Mont. (AP) - A state judge has rejected a plea agreement in the case of a Great Falls man charged with raping four girls between the ages of 12 and 14, saying he wants the defendant to take responsibility for his crimes.

Cascade County prosecutors reached a plea agreement with Kristian Underdahl, 19, that would have allowed him to enter an Alford plea to two counts of sexual intercourse without consent. The agreement called for the dismissal of 10 other felony charges, including seven other rape charges.

Under an Alford plea, a defendant does not admit guilt but acknowledges prosecutors have enough evidence to gain a conviction.

The agreement called for a 45-year prison sentence with 10 years suspended.

District Judge Greg Pinski rejected the agreement Tuesday, The Great Falls Tribune (http://gftrib.com/1b56I0E) reports. He said state law doesn’t allow a similar “no contest” plea in cases involving sex offenses.

The intent of requiring a full-fledged guilty plea, Pinski argued, is “to hold sexual offenders accountable for their crimes and to provide some measure of validation for the victims of sexual offenses.”

County Attorney John Parker said he expects at least one case against Underdahl to go to trial.

Underdahl was on probation for a rape conviction in Juvenile Court and free on bond for a February rape charge when he was charged with kidnapping and repeatedly raping a 13-year-old girl in March 2013.

In September, Underdahl was charged with having repeated sexual contact with one or more girls, ages 12 and 13, between December 2011 and June 2012.

This isn’t the first time Pinski has turned down an Alford plea in a rape case.

In September, Pinski rejected a similar plea agreement involving a 16-year-old boy charged with kidnapping, raping and choking an 11-year-old Great Falls girl in October 2012. Pinski made the same argument, saying the boy should acknowledge his guilt.

Kaleb Kuebler pleaded guilty to rape and was sentenced in December to 75 years in prison with 10 suspended.

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Information from: Great Falls Tribune, http://www.greatfallstribune.com

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