BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) - Montana authorities have taken the first step toward revoking the probation of a man who was granted clemency by the governor last year in a 1979 murder and then jailed this week for allegedly violating a restraining order.
Barry Beach appeared in court Thursday via video from the Yellowstone County jail on a probation violation stemming from the violation of the restraining order. Justice of the Peace David Carter set a $50,000 bond for his release.
Beach’s attorney rejected the latest allegation and said it stemmed from a child custody dispute.
The temporary restraining order was issued in October after a woman filed a court petition claiming Beach had fathered her son and had stalked her since his release from prison.
The woman filed a report with the Billings Police Department Sunday alleging Beach violated the order, which requires him to stay at least 300 feet away from her, according to court documents. Beach was wearing a GPS monitoring system at the time of the alleged offense, which a probation officer said underscored his “very poor judgment,” according to court documents.
He was arrested Wednesday, the same day probation officers became aware of the alleged violation, Montana Department of Corrections spokeswoman Judy Beck said. Within 10 days of his arrest, corrections officials plan to file a violation report with the Roosevelt County attorney, Beck said.
That’s a first step toward asking a court to revoke Beach’s probation. The action was taken “for the safety of the petitioner, her family and the community,” Beck said.
A judge would have the latitude to revoke Beach’s probation entirely, impose additional restrictions or take no action. A Nov. 18 hearing on the probation violation was scheduled in state District Court in Plentywood.
Beach has said the woman’s 4-year-old boy is his and that the stalking claim was a response to his efforts to gain visitation rights.
“All we have are allegations that we believe are not credible,” Beach’s attorney, Tim Baldwin, said during Thursday’s court appearance. “This really boils down to what’s going to be a custody issue.”
Baldwin said a parenting plan had been filed with the court seeking to resolve the dispute.
Beach was sentenced to 100 years in prison without the possibility of parole in the 1979 death of 17-year-old Kimberly Nees of Poplar in Roosevelt County. During his more than 30 years in prison, his cause was adopted by hundreds of supporters and attracted backing from numerous Montana politicians.
In 2011, he was released temporarily after a judge ordered a new trial in the murder case based on new evidence. The state Supreme Court reversed that order and sent Beach back to prison after 18 months.
It was during that period of freedom that Beach had a brief relationship with the woman, according to her restraining order petition.
Gov. Steve Bullock granted him clemency last November, noting that Beach was 17 at the time of Nees’ death and had been a model prisoner. Beach had long denied the crime.
In his clemency order, Bullock noted that three psychological reports concluded Beach posed a minimal risk to public safety. Bullock commuted his sentence to time served with an additional 10 years suspended, during which time Beach would remain under state supervision.
Beach’s mother, Bobbi Clincher, said Thursday that he found out he had a son when the mother was arrested. Beach was contacted by the Department of Family Services and told he needed to take a DNA test, she said.
“He went in for the DNA test, and sure enough the child is his. For him to be locked up all those years, not able to have children when he was younger, it was a nice surprise,” Clincher said. “If he has to go back to prison just because he was trying to have a relationship with his son would be really sad.”
In early October, Beach’s probation restrictions were tightened after a woman alleged he propositioned her 12-year-old daughter in January. No charges were filed in that case following a months-long investigation by law enforcement.
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