Summary: Chapter 29

Chapter 29 begins Part Six of Missoula, “Aftershocks.” Before Jordan Johnson’s trial, Montana Regent Pat Williams says that the university must stop recruiting “thugs” to its football team. After Johnson is found not guilty, Williams writes a guest column in the Missoulian in which he defends his previous statements. Johnson’s defense attorney, David Paoli, writes a response calling Williams’ “thug” comments racist and saying that his statements could have compromised Johnson’s trial. Montana Supreme Court Justice Terry Trieweiler writes another response column in which he says the only thing Williams got wrong was his assertion that Montanans appreciate “straight talk.” Trieweiler says Paoli was race-baiting in his column, and lists the numerous examples of criminal behavior by both black and white members of the football team. In April 2013, the Montana Senate votes Pat Williams off the Montana Board of Regents.

After Johnson’s trial, Allison Huguet sees on the evening news that Beau Donaldson has asked for a review of his prison sentence from the Montana Supreme Court. By signing his plea deal, Beau Donaldson waived any right to appeal or to apply for sentence review. Nonetheless, in May 2013, there is a hearing to review Beau’s sentence. Beau and his lawyer, Milt Datsopoulos, argue that Beau’s sentence doesn’t offer him enough opportunity to rehabilitate. Allison testifies at the hearing. She begins by wondering how Beau is able to get a review despite signing the plea deal. Beau deserves punishment for his crime, she argues, and, contrary to Datsopoulos’s claims, has a history of criminal behavior. Hillary McLaughlin also testifies. She reiterates how being raped by Beau destroyed her sense of comfort and how she still lives in fear. Fred Van Valkenberg argues on Allison and McLaughlin’s behalf. The review committee upholds Beau’s original sentence. Meanwhile, people in Missoula, even Allison’s former friends, continue to say she falsely accused Beau and ruined his life.

Summary: Chapter 30

Chapter 30 describes how Fred Van Valkenberg refused to cooperate with the U.S. Department of Justice investigation into the response to sexual assault complaints. The Missoula Police Department and the University of Montana cooperate fully with Department of Justice’s investigation, but Val Valkenberg claims the Department of Justice has no legal authority to investigate the Missoula County Attorney’s Office. Michael Cotter, U.S. Attorney for the district of Montana, offers a deal to the Missoula County Attorney’s Office that would require them, among other things, to hire victim advocates and private investigators and to meet with every victim who reports a sexual assault. In response, Van Valkenberg files a lawsuit challenging the Department of Justice’s right to tell his office what to do. The Department of Justice responds by releasing a twenty-page report detailing the numerous ways in which Van Valkenberg’s office failed to adequately prosecute sexual assault cases.

The Department of Justice’s report mentions many cases of insensitivity at the hands of prosecutors in Van Valkenberg’s office. Women described their interactions with the office as “traumatic.” The report warns that the Missoula County Attorney’s Office’s failure to file charges compromised the safety of women in the Missoula community. In addition to failing to prosecute almost all non-stranger rapes in Missoula County, the office failed to provide evidence standards to the Missoula Police Department that would allow investigators to gather enough evidence for cases to be prosecuted.

Analysis: Chapters 29 & 30

In Part Six of Missoula, the privileged powers in the book—especially, the University of Montana football team and those surrounding it—use the result of Jordan Johnson’s trial as a rallying cry. David Paoli and others twist Johnson’s not guilty verdict into evidence of an unjust assault on the football program by what it considers Missoula’s liberal intellectual elite. Krakauer implies that these privileged parties want, above all, to protect their privilege, not to change the culture in Missoula to recognize and find justice for rape victims or other disempowered people. The exchange between Pat Williams, David Paoli, and Terry Trieweiler in the Missoulian shows how competitive Missoulians remain over the reputation of their town’s football team. As his response to Pat Williams’ comments show, Paoli’s theatricality and competitiveness extend beyond the courtroom.

In Chapter 29, Krakauer shows how the U.S. legal system sometimes gives convicted rapists privileges that continue to traumatize and disturb their victims. Despite the agreement he signed in his plea deal, Beau Donaldson is granted a hearing that virtually forces both Allison Huguet and Hillary McLaughlin to appear in court and re-hash the details of their sexual assaults. Krakauer has previously discussed how, for victims, revisiting or being forced to recall trauma can be counterproductive for mental health and the process of recovery. But, in forcing his victims to either re-testify or allow the perpetrator to get off with a more lenient sentence, Beau and Datsopoulos have nothing to lose. Krakauer suggests that the aura of privilege around the football team after Johnson’s acquittal contributes to Beau and Datsopoulos’s sense of entitlement when they file for a review despite Beau’s plea agreement. Allison and McLaughlin are required to relive their rapes yet again in order to chip even the smallest sliver of justice off of the system.

Krakauer uses Van Valkenberg’s appearance at Beau’s sentence review hearing to transition to a closer examination of Van Valkenberg character. Krakauer argues that, as Missoula County Attorney, Van Valkenberg is responsible for the failure of his office to prosecute rape in Missoula. Krakauer says outright that the County Attorney’s Office bears the brunt of the blame for the rape crisis and for causing a federal investigation in the town. But Van Valkenberg, instead of devoting his attention to resolving the issues highlighted by the federal investigation, expended a tremendous amount of energy trying to combat the investigation and working to maintain the status quo in Missoula.

Outside of Missoula, the U.S. Department of Justice continues to address the way universities handle rape across the United States. As of January 2015, more than ninety major U.S. colleges and universities, including Ivy League establishments like Columbia and Dartmouth, were under federal investigation. Like the Department of Justice’s investigation in Missoula, many of these ongoing federal investigations examine the interaction between universities, law enforcement, and legal prosecutors in university communities. The findings of the federal investigation revealed in Chapter 30 bolster the arguments Krakauer has made throughout Missoula. According to the federal report, victims find that dealing with prosecutors and the legal system forces them to revisit their trauma. Meanwhile, conventional, outdated myths about rape and rapists prevent prosecutors from seeking justice for these same rape victims.