News & Features

Sex Assault Kit Testing Results in Prosecution of 2015 Rape

Legislature unanimously passed a bill this year that requires law enforcement agencies to submit most rape kits for testing within 30 days

HELENA — A convicted sex offender is the first man charged with rape under a Montana Department of Justice initiative to analyze about 1,200 previously untested sexual assault evidence kits held by local law enforcement agencies, the DOJ said Thursday.

Allen William Miller, 41, of Great Falls, made an initial court appearance Wednesday. He is being held at the Cascade County jail on $150,000 bail. He has not entered a plea to the charge of sexual intercourse without consent and has not been assigned an attorney. His next court date has not been set.

“I am grateful to the officers of the Great Falls Police Department for their work on this case and look forward to more of these results around the state as our work continues,” Attorney General Tim Fox said in a statement.

The woman reported being raped outside her apartment building on April 19, 2015, court records said.

She underwent a sexual assault examination the next day. The exam kit, which typically contains swabs and other samples, was held in evidence by Great Falls police until 2018 when it was sent to a crime lab for testing.

Prosecutors say evidence in the rape kit matched Miller, whose DNA was in a national database following a 2005 sexual assault conviction in Fergus County.

There has been a national effort over the past decade to test rape kits to correct what Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. has called “an absolute travesty of justice.”

Vance’s office invested $38 million in rape kit testing and the federal Department of Justice has spent $154 million over three years on its sexual assault kit testing initiative. The testing of more than 100,000 sexual assault kits over the last three years has led to more than 1,000 arrests and over 500 convictions, officials said.

In Montana, Fox created a Sexual Assault Evidence Task Force in 2015 to study the issue of untested rape kits and to make recommendations.

Montana received funding to build a tracking system in 2016 and a $2 million federal grant to pay for the testing. DNA profiles obtained from the kits are confirmed and entered into an FBI database. If a DNA match is found, the evidence is given to local law enforcement to pursue, DOJ spokesman John Barnes said.

Most of the Montana kits tested involved rapes reported between 2006 and 2016, but some dated back to 1995, Barnes said.

The Joyful Heart Foundation, founded by “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” actress Mariska Hargitay to help victims of sexual assault, has advocated for eliminating rape kit testing backlogs since 2010. The foundation also supports legislative changes, including laws requiring sexual assault kits to be submitted for testing.

The Montana Legislature unanimously passed a bill this year that requires law enforcement agencies to submit most rape kits for testing within 30 days. If patients don’t consent, the rape kits are submitted to the DOJ for storage as an anonymous kit. Anonymous kits must be stored for at least a year and the individual from whom the evidence was obtained may later consent to testing.