In Chapter 15, Krakauer describes the doubt that Allison’s story provokes in the community. People insist she is making the whole thing up and only craves attention. Allison, meanwhile, is kept awake at night by vivid dreams. In one, she dives into a river to rescue Beau, who she thinks is drowning. When she reaches him, he isn’t drowning at all. He grabs her and holds her underwater, and she wakes up. Krakauer points out that Allison’s struggle with the Missoula County Attorney’s Office exacerbates her post-traumatic stress. She and her family meet with members of the office in September 2012. Shaun Donovan wants to recommend a maximum sentence of thirty years at the Montana State Prison with twenty years suspended. He and County Attorney Fred Van Valkenberg argue that the recommendation is harsh, but Allison and her family point out that, with a ten-year sentence, Beau would be eligible for parole in just two and a half years. They are persuaded to sign the deal, but Allison isn’t entirely happy with it.
Gwen Florio and others write articles about Allison’s case that quote Shaun Donovan as well as Beau’s lawyer, Milt Datsopoulos. Allison feels Datsopoulos’s statements defend Beau’s actions as an unfortunate mistake, and she is upset that Donovan’s statements don’t make a strong case for a harsh sentence. She writes a concerned and persuasive email to County Attorney Fred Van Valkenberg, and he agrees to have a meeting with her, some of her family members, and Detective Baker. At the meeting in late September 2012, Allison and her family say they are glad that Donovan was able to deliver a plea deal, but they are concerned he might not push aggressively for the maximum sentence at Beau’s hearing. Van Valkenberg agrees to take over the prosecution of the case. Afterward, Allison wonders if he would have met with her and her family at all if her case weren’t receiving so much attention from the media or if U.S. Department of Justice weren’t conducting its investigation.
Chapter 16 resumes the storyline of Jordan Johnson and Cecilia Washburn. After Johnson receives his no contact order in February 2012, Johnson’s attorney, David Paoli, hires a private investigator to watch Washburn’s house. The investigator lets Paoli know when Washburn leaves, and Paoli goes to interview her roommates. Dean Couture objects to the activity, but Paoli is planning an aggressive and, for Cecilia Washburn, obtrusive defense. Johnson is called to Dean Couture’s office for their first investigatory meeting. Paoli and UM attorney David Aronofsky are also present. Paoli claims, afterward, that Couture’s behavior is abrasive and antagonistic and that he does not follow the UM Student Conduct Code guidelines. Paoli also argues that because the Student Conduct Code has not been updated to say that a “preponderance of evidence” is needed to find a student in violation, the old “clear and convincing” evidence standard should be followed. Aronofsky and Dean Couture say this is an irrelevant technicality, not a legal requirement for the University.
At the end of March, Dean Couture sends Jordan Johnson a letter telling him that the University has found a preponderance of evidence that Johnson is guilty. Johnson appeals the charge and has an administrative conference with the next highest authority at the university, Vice President of Student Affairs Teresa Branch. During the conference, Paoli argues that Dean Couture’s investigation was biased and makes the same argument about the evidence standard. Branch is unconvinced and denies Johnson’s appeal. Johnson appeals to the University Court. Despite Paoli’s attempts to delay the Trial, it takes place as scheduled on May 10. The University Court finds Johnson guilty and votes to expel him from the university. Paoli, however, appeals beyond the university to the Montana Commissioner of Higher Education and the Board of Regents. Commissioner Clayton Christian orders that the university reopen Johnson’s case using the “clear and convincing evidence” standard, and the whole process begins again. By this time, in July 2012, there is a new dean of students, Rhondie Voorhees. She finds Johnson not guilty, and the U.S. Department of Education and Justice rebukes the university for using the “clear and convincing evidence” standard. Cecilia Washburn is unable to appeal Dean Voorhees’ decision.
One reason people diminish rape claims or accuse victims of exaggerating about rape, Missoula argues, is that it is easier to pretend that a rape hasn’t happened than to account for rape’s horrible repercussions. The idea that a victim would report a rape because she wants attention, as Missoulians say about Allison Huguet, is highly unlikely. As Krakauer’s reporting shows, it is more common for victims to remain silent about rape. That is, in part, because the attention they receive after reporting is not desirable. Victims must endure comments that are cruel, slanderous, and threatening. Allison becomes an outcast in Missoula. The dream recounted in Chapter 15 shows just how deeply affected she has been by the rape and its aftermath. She cannot escape her rape even in sleep. In the dream, Allison tries to save Beau. She did the same in real life when she offered Beau a chance to seek therapy and treatment. But in the dream, as in life, Beau takes advantage of Allison.
Shaun Donovan is finally able to arrive at a recommended sentence that would require Beau to serve time in the state prison. The sentence itself, “thirty years with twenty years suspended” with an actual term for Beau of just two and a half years, points to what Krakauer considers the inefficiency and bureaucracy built into the United States legal system. Donovan’s sentence is much more lenient than it sounds. Allison and her family seek justice but instead see an endless stream of “legalese” and inflated language. They repeatedly have to work through Donovan and Van Valkenberg’s rhetoric to press for the sentence they want. Once again, Gwen Florio’s journalism plays an important role in Allison’s decision-making. Donovan’s statements to Florio suggest he will not be as strong an advocate for Allison as Beau’s defense lawyer is for Beau. Krakauer makes it clear that Allison needs a committed prosecutor. Without one, it is unlikely that a judge will impose the maximum sentence allowed by the plea deal.