On Tuesday, December 29, a tiny measure of justice was served in the case of murdered Montana 12-year-old James Alexander “Alex” Hurley, which I’ve been following since February.
Alex died in his paternal grandmother’s West Yellowstone home, and four family members, as well as a family friend, were ultimately charged with crimes relating to his ongoing abuse and eventual murder.
Yesterday, that family friend, now 19-year-old Gage Roush, along with his attorney, Kirsten Mull Core, appeared in Gallatin County District Court before Judge Peter Ohman, who handed down a sentence per the terms of a plea agreement.
Prosecutors, as part of the plea deal, recommended that Gage serve a five year suspended sentence in Montana State Prison. A suspended sentence remains on someone’s criminal record. A deferred sentence, by comparison, can be removed upon a successful petition by the defendant. Gage pleaded guilty in November to his charge of assault on a minor.
The plea agreement allowed Kirsten Mull Core to to argue for a deferred sentence, and evidently, she was successful. Judge Ohman sentenced Gage to a five year deferred sentence for his assault on Alex, which was captured on cell phone video discovered on one of the family members’ mobile devices. Gage was seen hitting Alex with an object that has variously been described as a piece of wood, a paddle, and a bat. The video depicts Alex crying and screaming, “I fucking hate this!” Court documents state that following Alex’s statement, Gage approached him, saying, “Yeah you do. I know you do.”
In court on Tuesday, attorney Mull Core told the court that Gage takes responsibility for his actions and was remorseful, which prosecutors agreed with. She said a deferred sentence would give Gage the ability to prove he can be a productive person who follows the rules.
After the sentencing, Mull Core said, “I think it was an appropriate resolution for the case. Gage is extremely remorseful.” She added that Gage would not have committed such an act of his own volition and that his action was separate from those that caused Alex’s death. “It was a tragic situation, and he really didn’t know what he was getting into.”
Of the other four people charged in Alex’s death, only one case has been adjudicated: that of Alex’s uncle, James Sasser III, who was 14 at the time of his nephew’s murder. James pleaded guilty and was sentenced to detention until he turns 18, at which time he will remain on probation until he is 25. He is required to remain in mental health treatment until that time, as well.
Alex’s grandmother, Patricia Batts; her husband, James Sasser Jr.; and the couple’s daughter, Madison Sasser, who was 18 when Alex died, await trial on felony charges relating to Alex’s murder. They have all pleaded not guilty. Trial dates have not been set in their cases.
Sources: Bozeman Daily Chronicle