A 52-year-old Flathead County man was sentenced to 50 years in prison after being convicted of tampering with evidence and rape.
Steven Jason Colby, who was previously convicted of manslaughter in Oregon in the late 1980s and later found guilty of conspiracy to commit murder after plotting to kill a fellow inmate, was sentenced in Flathead County District Court on Nov. 30. Judge Robert Allison sentenced Colby to 50 years in Montana State Prison. Colby will not be eligible for parole for at least 25 years.
According to court records, the Flathead County Sheriff’s Office and Child Protective Services were investigating Colby in late 2016 after he was accused of raping a female teenager. The investigation began when law enforcement learned that the girl became pregnant.
On Dec. 16, 2016, the sheriff’s office received search warrant to obtain Colby’s DNA in order to confirm if he was indeed the father of the girl’s child. Law enforcement tried to contact Colby on multiple occasions and at one point, when they reached him by phone, the man said he was hiding from the law out of state. On Dec. 21 officers went to Colby’s home with CPS workers. After knocking on the door, officers entered the home and located Colby.
Colby allegedly became confrontational with the officers and made numerous threats to them. At one point, Colby allegedly told a detective that “I will find you and it will just be you and I.” Because of Colby’s past manslaughter conviction, the officers took the threat seriously. Colby was placed under arrest and taken to the Flathead County Detention Center. While in custody, Colby continued to threaten officers.
In jail, Colby allegedly called his wife. During that call, officers heard Colby tell the woman to “wipe my tablet.” Believing that there might be additional evidence on the electronic device, officers filed for a search warrant for the tablet, but before they could acquire it the device had been erased.
Colby was initially charged with felony threats in an official matter and felony tampering with evidence. He pleaded not guilty to both charges in January. In June, Flathead County Deputy Attorney Travis Ahner filed amended information charging Colby with an additional felony and misdemeanor assault with bodily fluid. The misdemeanor charge stemmed from a May incident where Colby spit on a guard. Colby eventually denied the additional charges.
In September, Colby signed a plea deal where he agreed to plead guilty to the tampering and rape charges. The felony threats in an official matter, felony tampering with evidence and misdemeanor assault with bodily fluid charges were dropped.
On Nov. 30, Colby appeared in court for his sentencing. During a meandering statement before his sentencing, Colby accepted responsibility for his actions while simultaneously downplaying what happened.
“I’m glad the victim is OK,” he said. “She’ll do well, she just needs some counseling.”
Judge Allison countered that Colby was underestimating the severity of his crimes.
“You have done a lot of harm,” Allison said.
Prosecutors argued for a 50-year sentence to the Montana State Prison with a 30-year parole restriction. Defense Attorney Glen Neier asked the judge to impose a 30-year sentence with half of the time suspended. Neier said it was a punishment fit for the crime. Deputy Attorney Ahner warned, however, that Colby was a danger to the community and that a longer sentence was warranted, especially considering the defendant’s violent criminal history.
“Colby has an explosive temper and has a tendency for acts of physical violence,” Ahner said.