Amy Beth Hanson
HELENA, Mont. — A Montana man whom prosecutors allege molested at least 13 girls at the home of his adoptive mother, including some of her foster children, has been sent to prison more than a decade after he was first charged.
Oliver Lee White, who was born with cognitive impairments, was charged in 2009 with molesting four girls. But after being found unfit for trial, his prosecution on those and other charges were deferred three times over five years, during which the abuse of children continued at his mother’s residence on the Crow Indian Reservation in southern Montana, according to court records.
Federal prosecutors filed a case in 2016 seeking to have White civilly committed after being unable to get criminal convictions.
White, 33, engaged “in at least a decade-long pattern of abusing prepubescent girls brought into his home,” U.S. District Judge James C. Dever of North Carolina wrote in his recent ruling ordering the civil commitment.
He “initially avoided detection because his family members, most notably his mother, concealed the allegations made by the victims, and degraded the credibility of the girls making the allegations,” Dever wrote in the Sept. 30 ruling.
“These girls, some of whom where placed in the care and protection of (White’s) mother as foster children, were exposed to significant pain and hardship ... only to be further abused by (White) and silenced by his adoptive mother,” the judge wrote.
A charge was filed against White’s mother for failing to report abuse she was aware of, but the felony was dismissed. To uphold charges against her, White would have had to be convicted of a felony.
Federal public defender Halerie Costello filed a notice Monday that she plans to appeal the judge’s order. She argued during the civil commitment hearing that White did not express pedophilic behavior anywhere but at his mother’s house and could live successfully outside of federal custody as long as it wasn’t with his mother.
White’s mother also operates a nonprofit thrift store and food bank and holds children’s camps at her residence in Garryowen, federal prosecutors said.
“There is an unlimited supply of children,” FBI Special Agent Brandon Walter testified at White’s trial, held in October 2020. “So he has access to his targets in almost an unlimited sense.”
Five people who reported being molested by White testified at the civil commitment hearing, along with five psychiatric experts, four of whom diagnosed him with pedophilic disorder.
During closing arguments, Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Genna Petre noted one of the psychiatric experts said it was common sense that White not go back to his mother’s residence and nonprofit organization.
“But I think that it was probably common sense that he not be there after the first indictment or maybe even long before that,” Petre said.
The first case of abuse was reported in 2009 and involved two sisters, ages 4 and 7, who were then removed the custody of White’s mother, who was their foster mother, court records said. White was also charged in April 2009 with sexually assaulting two other girls.
White was charged again in April 2012 with four counts of abusive sexual contact and two counts of attempted abusive sexual contact involving the first four girls and two more, with one of the cases dating back to 2005.
In one of the six cases, White’s mother told a victim’s mother that White had an ability to heal people through touching, prosecutors said.
A federal psychiatric evaluation in 2013 found White’s mental defect did not create a substantial risk of bodily injury to another person, court records said. There were no allegations of any sexual abuse of young girls while White lived with his brother in New Mexico at times over the years, court records said.
However, White returned to Montana in December 2013, and a 6-year-old girl reported he sexually assaulted her while she spent the night at White’s mother’s house, court records said.
Charges in that case were filed in Crow Tribal Court in 2014, the prosecution was again deferred and White was released in June 2016.
A month later, federal prosecutors filed charges against White for the 6-year-old girl’s abuse and sought to have him certified as a sexually dangerous person and asked that he be committed. He has been in custody since August 2016, court records said.
“We, as a team, decided that the best possible remedy forward at that point would be civil commitment and the tribal prosecutor had promised that would be his goal, was a similar lifetime civil commitment,” Walter testified, according to court transcripts.
After the 2016 charges were filed, three more victims came forward to report abuse that had occurred years earlier, court records said. No criminal charges were filed in those cases.
White was committed to a federal prison under a provision of the Adam Walsh Act that allows the United States to seek commitment of sexually dangerous persons who, because of a serious mental illness, abnormality or disorder, would have difficulty refraining from sexually violent conduct or child molestation. All Walsh Act cases are heard in North Carolina.
The statute requires annual reviews by the government to determine White’s continued risk. It also allows for review hearings that could lead to White being released at some point, a Department of Justice spokesperson said.