The leader of a religious sect once based in Magna has been sentenced to six years to life for raping a teenage member of his congregation.
In 2005, Terrill Dalton told the 15-year-old girl he was "the Holy Ghost" and promised her "great blessings" if she had sex with him, according to testimony and court documents. Dalton also told the teen it was God’s will that she have sex with his second in command, 38-year-old Geody Harman.
On Friday, 3rd District Judge Judith Atherton sentenced the 45-year-old Dalton to consecutive terms of three years to life.
Dalton was convicted by a jury in March of two first-degree felony counts of rape.
He was the president of the Church of the Firstborn of the General Assembly of Heaven, a sect with fewer than 100 members that later moved to Idaho before settling in Montana. Church members called him "God in the flesh," and prosecutors said Dalton "served [the victim] up on a platter" to Harman, his lieutenant.
"[Dalton] made me feel as if no matter what I did, I could never be right before God," the victim, now 22, testified at trial in March. "I tried so hard. ... There was always something bigger he wanted me to do."
Defense attorney Rudy Bautista said Dalton maintains his innocence. Bautista said he plans to appeal the case on the grounds that the statute of limitations had expired before charges were filed.
The defense attorney also said he believes Dalton should be screened for mental health issues.
"He says he was receiving communication and scriptures that if you and I read them, they wouldn’t make any sense," Bautista said. "It’s something that should be looked at."
Harman has pleaded guilty to third-degree felony unlawful sex with a minor. He is scheduled to be sentenced next month. Because of his cooperation in the case, prosecutors will recommend the man not serve any jail time.
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