Courts

Plea Agreement Calls for 50-Year Sentence for Attempted Rape at Lakeside Motel

Jeffrey Westfall pleaded guilty mid-trial last week; prosecutors will recommend 50-year prison term for August 2020 attack

By Andy Viano
Flathead County Justice Center. Beacon File Photo

A violent sex offender with a lengthy criminal record pleaded guilty to aggravated assault and attempted sexual assault in Flathead County District Court last week, reaching an agreement with prosecutors that could send him to prison for as long as 50 years.

Jeffrey Allen Westfall, 53, entered not guilty pleas to two felony charges shortly after his arrest in late August but abruptly changed course on April 20, two days into his trial, switching his plea to guilty following the testimony of his alleged victim. Per the terms of a plea agreement, Deputy County Attorney Andrew Clegg will recommend a 50-year prison sentence with a parole restriction of 15 years, meaning Westfall cannot be paroled earlier than 15 years into his term. Westfall’s court-appointed attorney, Greg Rapkoch, will be free to argue for a different punishment at a sentencing hearing in front of Judge Heidi Ulbricht on May 27.

Westfall was arrested in Flathead County on Aug. 28, five days after investigators said he arrived at a Lakeside motel just before midnight and knocked on the door. When a woman went to unlock the door and let him in, Westfall allegedly punched her in the eye and attempted to sexually assault her. The victim’s husband heard her scream from a nearby bedroom and fought with Westfall, who eventually fled. A motel security camera captured the incident.

Westfall’s trial began on April 19 and the proceedings were marred by the defendant’s antics from the outset. According to the official minutes of his Monday appearance, Westfall frequently engaged in what Judge Ulbricht described as “delay tactics,” including by asking to represent himself, then backtracking, on multiple occasions. The court also rejected an attempt by Rapkoch to have Westfall sent for a mental health evaluation and warned Westfall on several occasions that his “disruptive behavior” could lead to his expulsion from the courtroom. Ulbricht eventually did remove Westfall from the courtroom, forcing him to watch the proceedings via videoconference on Monday when jury selection was completed. The short-lived trial began Tuesday morning.

Even before his August assault in Flathead County, Westfall had been designated a Level 3 sex offender by the state of Montana, the category with the highest likelihood to reoffend. Level 3 sex offenders are defined as “a threat to public safety” and Westfall is categorized as a “sexually violent predator.” Westfall has prior convictions for sexual assault dating back to a 1987 and charging documents indicated Westfall has 13 felony convictions on his record, including for rape, attempted rape, burglary and failure to register as a sex offender.

Westfall remains in custody at the Flathead County Detention Center while awaiting sentencing.

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