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Former CPS worker pleads guilty to criminal endangerment

A former Lake County social worker, who was charged with raping a Polson woman, has pleaded guilty to the amended charge of criminal endangerment.

According to court records on Sept. 26, 2017, Chase Joseph Ripley, 34, in his capacity as Child Protective Services agent for Lake County’s Department of Public Health and Human Services office, went to the home of a Jane Doe in Polson to have her sign some paperwork involving her children. The woman was at that time limited to supervised visitation by the state for reasons not outlined in the charging documents.

After the paperwork was signed, Ripley is alleged to have started talking about Jane Doe’s breasts. The conversation escalated to where Ripley allegedly exposed himself and gestured for her to lead them to a bedroom while Ripley disrobed. Ripley then proceeded to have sex with the woman. 

The woman later described to investigators a tattoo on Ripley’s torso and an abnormality on his male anatomy. 

Ripley initially denied having sex with the woman but when confronted by investigators during a second interview about the tattoo and the abnormality Ripley admitted to having sex with her but claimed it was consensual. 

In the plea agreement both the state and defense will recommend sentencing being deferred for three years.

Lake County Deputy Attorney Brendan McQuillan qualified his agreement to the deferred sentencing by saying there were some difficulties in proving certain aspects of the case and that Ripley is a respected veteran of the U. S. Marines, with a clean record.

District Judge John Larson in Missoula presided over the case having accepted it when Lake County Judges Kim Christopher and James Manley had to recuse themselves due to their familiarity with Ripley in his role with Child Protective Services.

The change of plea hearing occurred May 16, 2018 during a three way “vision net” hearing that allowed the state and defense to appear from the Lake County Courthouse, Judge Larson appearing from Missoula and Ripley appearing from Libby on television simultaneously.

Judge Larson set the case for sentencing June 28. Judge Larson is not bound by the plea agreement and could reject it if circumstances of the case change or new information comes to light.

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