NBC’s newsmagazine program “Dateline” opened old wounds in the Flathead April 15 when it aired a show on the Brianna Torres-Moore case.
“We had gotten to the point where we had felt it was done,” says Brianna’s mother, Bridget Michlig.
In the fall of 2003, then-15-year-old Torres-Moore accused Travis Reynolds and Patrick Larson, who were respectively 16 and 17 years old at the time, of raping her at a post-homecoming party.
The case ignited controversy when Lake County Attorney Bob Long refused to prosecute Larson, and Flathead County Attorney Ed Corrigan refused to prosecute Reynolds. (Because Reynolds was a juvenile at the time, his case went to his county of residence, though the incident occurred in Lake County.)
While Flathead County dropped Reynold’s case, the state attorney general’s office took up Larson’s, and he pleaded guilty to having sex with Torres-Moore, who, at age 15 could not legally give consent. Larson received two-and-a-half years probation.
“Dateline” dramatically retold this story, with some new information, including the disturbing revelation that Torres-Moore, who moved to California after the incident, was raped there by her uncle, who pleaded guilty and is now serving an eight-year prison sentence for that crime.
“Dateline” painted a portrait of a case that won’t end cleanly, with the Flathead County Attorney’s office releasing witness statements last year alleging that Torres-Moore willingly had sex with Larson and Reynolds.
“Dateline” ended its story by noting that Kalispell police have since arrested Larson on charges related to a vandalism spree, but that Larson pleaded not guilty.
But according to Flathead Deputy County Attorney Dan Guzynski, in March Larson planned to change his plea to guilty of accountability to felony criminal mischief in exchange for a 30-day suspended sentence. The court declined to accept that plea when it became apparent that Larson was unaware of its effect on his probationary status, and the possibility it could land him in jail.
Meanwhile, Bridget Michlig says she’s been watching Larson’s case, hoping it will finally result in jail time.
Larson’s next court hearing is April 27.