Crime

Sentencing Rescheduled for Columbia Falls Man Accused of Sexual Assault

Judge cited unstable mental condition and postponed Ronald Braxton Dougherty's sentencing to Oct. 14 while ordering him to check into Logan Health Behavioral Health

By Maggie Dresser
Ronald Braxton Dougherty appears in Flathead County District Court in Kalispell on Sept. 16, 2021. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

The sentencing hearing for a Columbia Falls man charged with criminal endangerment, stemming from an alleged sexual assault of a 16-year-old girl with developmental disabilities, was rescheduled to Oct. 14 after a district court judge determined the defendant must seek medical attention to address his unstable mental health.

Judge Amy Eddy issued the rescheduling for Ronald Braxton Dougherty at his originally scheduled sentencing hearing in Flathead County District Court on Sept. 16.

Dougherty is charged with criminal endangerment, which was amended from the original filing of sexual intercourse without consent. He faces up to 10 years in prison and/or a $50,000 fine.

Dougherty is also scheduled to go to trial on Oct. 18 for a separate charge of sexual intercourse without consent stemming from an alleged assault of a 6-year-old boy.

At the Sept. 16 hearing, Eddy told Dougherty attorneys he must immediately check himself into Logan Health Behavioral Health, formerly called Pathways Treatment Center.

“I worry that based on his mental condition right now, he will not appropriately remember or understand the conditions as they are imposed in this case, which would result in the immediate revocation of his deferred sentence,” Eddy said.

In March 2020, Dougherty, who was 18 at the time, was accused of raping a 16-year-old girl with a “genetic condition causing a range of developmental disabilities and cognitive impairment” and charged with sexual intercourse without consent, later amended to criminal endangerment, according to court documents. The incident occurred between October and November of 2019.

Dougherty and the victim were together at a residence in Columbia Falls when he allegedly told her, “we’re alone, we should have sex.” The victim “repeatedly told Dougherty she did not want to but he kept trying to convince her (and) stated Dougherty began to undress her and she became scared and just ‘stood there,'” according to charging documents.

Dougherty pleaded guilty to an amended charge of criminal endangerment on June 18, 2021.

Dougherty’s attorney, William Managhan, said his client does not currently have contact with anyone under the age of 18 unless he is chaperoned and that he’s not allowed to visit establishments where children congregate, like malls.

“I think my client’s mental age is a lot younger than his chronological age,” Managhan said.

Dougherty, however, mentioned in court that he has contact with a 16-year-old female.

“I do have a 16-year-old that considers me like her father and I would like to ask the court to consider this,” Dougherty said. “She’s the only person keeping me alive right now. I’m not in the best state of mind to be having people drop out of my life at the moment.”

In the separate charge for which he is awaiting trial on Oct. 18, Dougherty is accused of convincing a 6-year-old boy that performing CPR involved sexual contact, which he initiated, in late summer or early fall of 2018.

The assault was reported to the Child and Family Services Division of the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services in the spring of 2019. Dougherty was 17 years old at the time of the alleged offense. He pleaded not guilty to sexual intercourse without consent on June 18.

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