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Ex-undersheriff guilty of raping teen, Valley County jury finds

Ex-undersheriff guilty of raping teen, Valley County jury finds

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The former undersheriff in Valley County was convicted on Friday of raping a teen. 

Luke Strommen's trial on one count of sexual intercourse without consent began in Valley County District Court on Monday. Strommen, born in 1977, was taken into custody after the trial concluded.

Strommen was charged with sexual intercourse without consent after a girl reported that he had raped her roughly 50 times from 2009 to 2011, starting when she was 14 years old. The victim has said the majority of encounters took place inside Strommen’s patrol vehicle, which she said he parked outside of his friend’s home in a remote area of Valley County.

Strommen initiated the sexual relationship during a hotel stay with the victim and Strommen's family in Great Falls in September of 2009, according to trial testimony. Strommen was soon to begin law enforcement training, and the Great Falls trip was a family getaway. 

The prosecution stated in closing arguments that the conviction hinged on whether the victim's testimony was credible or not and nothing else.

"As a society, we strive for a world where 14-year-old children are not sexually assaulted," stated Assistant Montana Attorney General and prosecution services bureau chief Dan Guzynski during closing arguments. He went on to argue that when children do disclose rape they are not responsible for what that adult did to them. "All [the victim] did was fall for the very unsophisticated trap [by Strommen]."

Strommen had worked for the Valley County Sheriff's Office since 2009 before resigning in November 2018. He was promoted to undersheriff in January 2017 and put on paid leave in June 2018 amid an investigation into his relationship with one of the teen girls. 

The trial included six state witnesses, two defense witnesses, two rebuttal witnesses and public health-related interferences. The jury deliberated for slightly less than three hours. 

Strommen is currently being held at the Valley County Detention Center. Sentencing is set for August. 

Strommen faces life in prison or a sentence of no more than 100 years or no less than four years.

In October, Strommen pleaded guilty to a separate charge of soliciting sexually explicit images from a 17-year-old. 

Strommen's attorney, Jason Holden, did not immediately return a request for comment. 

The Attorney General's Office, which prosecuted the case, also did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

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