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Attorney explains Montana’s parole law

By Scott Zoltan, KECI Reporter, szoltan@keci.com
Published On: Aug 06 2014 07:44:46 AM MDT
Updated On: Jul 03 2014 12:44:18 PM MDT
MISSOULA, Mont. -

Residents are voicing concerns over parole for a western Montana man long before his sentence was up. Many are questioning how David Delsignore could be paroled less than 4 years into a 15-year prison sentence.

In October 2010, Delsignore was sentenced to 30 years in prison with 15 suspended for driving drunk the day after Christmas in 2009, and killing two teens who were walking along the side of the road. Two other teens were injured.

It will likely be at least a year before Delsignore can live on his own in the community, but already there's outcry on news of his parole. Friends of the victims say the decision will be a painful one.

"It seems like he's getting kind of a slap on the wrist for the crime that he committed. No matter how you own up to it you still committed a pretty big crime," said Dylan Clark.

Delsignore was under the influence of alcohol when he swerved off the side of Highway 200, just east of Missoula, where four girls were walking the day after Christmas in 2009.

Delsignore was sentenced to 30 years in prison with 15 years and 5 months suspended.

Many on our Facebook wondered how Delsignore could be paroled. It turns out, prisoners can be paroled after serving just a quarter of their sentence.

NBC Montana sat down with a Missoula County prosecutor to learn more about the statute.

"There's a statutory mechanism for a person being granted parole," said Jason Marks, Missoula Assistant Chief Deputy County Attorney.

Marks explained that, according to Montana Code Annotated 46-23-201, "A prisoner serving a time sentence may not be paroled under this section until the prisoner has served at least one-fourth of the prisoner's full term."

In Delsignore's case, that's a quarter of his roughly 15 years that wasn't suspended.

Marks says there's really no status quo for parole decisions, and there are multiple variables that influence a decision.

It boiled down to several factors, including whether the board deems the prisoner a threat to the community, and how they will have best access to programs that aid with their rehabilitation.

"Really the aim is rehabilitation and making sure the person has the programs they need and has the structure they need to safely return to the community," said Marks.

Delsignore is expected to remain on parole until February 2026.