BILLINGS — A convicted murderer granted clemency last year by Montana’s governor now faces a potential return to prison after he was accused of stalking a woman in violation of his probation, according to a court petition filed Thursday.
Department of Justice officials are seeking to revoke Barry Beach’s 10-year suspended prison sentence that was imposed as a condition of his release. They filed the petition against Beach in state district court in Roosevelt County.
Beach, a Poplar native now living in Billings, was accused last month of stalking a woman whom he says is the mother of his son. Court proceedings in that case are pending in Billings municipal court.
Beach was jailed when the charges were first filed. He has since been freed after posting a $50,000 bond.
Beach attorney Timothy Baldwin said he expects his client to be exonerated of the stalking claim based on the records of a GPS device he was wearing at the time of the alleged violation.
Beach originally was sentenced to 100 years in prison for the 1979 beating death of 17-year-old Kim Nees. Gov. Steve Bullock granted Beach clemency in November 2015 after he had served more than 30 years in prison for the murder.
Beach had long maintained his innocence in Nees’s death and a campaign to release him attracted widespread support from elected officials in Montana. In his clemency order, Bullock cited Beach’s good behavior while in prison and the fact that he was 17 at the time of the murder.
In Thursday’s revocation petition, Department of Justice attorneys requested an initial hearing in which Beach would be asked to admit or deny his guilt. If he denies, the attorneys said they would ask that the revocation case be put on hold until the probation violation is resolved.
If the suspended sentence ultimately is revoked, the state is “recommending that he be sent back to prison,” Justice Department spokesman Eric Sell said. That recommendation is in line with a probation officer’s recommendation that he be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison.
A return to prison would not be automatic, according to both Sell and Baldwin.
A judge could instead impose additional conditions on his release, Baldwin said. But the defense attorney added that there were questions about the credibility of Beach’s accuser, which Baldwin said could help exonerate him.
“If we can get a not guilty verdict or dismissal in the city (municipal court) case then we’ll reach the same result in the revocation” of his probation, he said.
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