BILLINGS — A public protest is scheduled outside of a county courthouse in Montana today after a Yellowstone County judge issued a 30-day jail term, plus 15 years supervised probation, to a teacher who raped a teen that later committed suicide while proceedings were underway.
District Judge G. Todd Baugh has come under heavy criticism this week for not only the light sentence doled out to the suspect, 51-year-old Stacey Rambold, but also the comments surrounding his decision. On Monday, Baugh had stated that the 14-year-old girl, Charice Moralez, was “older than her chronological age” in regard to her knowledge of sexual matters and that she was in “as much control of the situation as the teacher.”
The girl’s mother, Auliea Hanlon, released a statement following the sentence decrying the judge’s ruling.
“I guess somehow it makes a rape more acceptable if you blame the victim, even if she was only 14,” she said. “She wasn’t even old enough to get a driver’s license. But Judge Baugh, who never met our daughter, justified the paltry sentence saying she was older than her chronological age.”
Others began calling for Baugh’s immediate resignation, and several petitions were launched, one of which has already generated over 23,000 signatures.
On Wednesday, Baugh apologized for his comments during the sentencing, but would not recant the sentence itself.
“I don’t know what I was thinking or trying to say,” Baugh told the Billings Gazette. “It was just stupid and wrong.”
“Obviously, a 14-year-old can’t consent. I think that people have in mind that this was some violent, forcible, horrible rape,” he continued. “It was horrible enough as it is just given her age, but it wasn’t this forcible beat-up rape.”
As part of a plea agreement, Rambold has been receiving sexual offender treatment. He had been told that prosecution would be deferred for three years and that the charges would be dropped if he completed the program. However, in December, he was expelled from the treatment program for having unsupervised visits with underage relatives, and for concealing a sexual relationship with an adult woman.
Therefore, the case was reinstated, and prosecutors recommended that he spend 10 years behind bars. However, during the sentencing on Monday, after Baugh issued a 15-year prison term, he suspended all but 31 days, and gave Rambold credit for one day. He said that the reasons why Rambold was kicked out of the treatment program did not warrant a significantly long prison term, and placed him on supervised probation for the rest of the sentence.
“I think what people are seeing is a sentence for rape of 30 days. Obviously on the face of it, if you look at it that way, it’s crazy,” Baugh told reporters. “No wonder people are upset. I’d be upset, too, if that happened.”
“We respect the judge, but we vehemently disagree with his sentencing decision,” Yellowstone County prosecutor Scott Twito told ABC News.
Consequently, a protest is scheduled to commence today outside of the Yellowstone County Courthouse. Organizer Sheena Rice said that she is glad that Baugh apologized for his words during sentencing, but still believes his actions were wrong.
“[H]e should have known better as a judge,” she told the Star Tribune. “The fact that he said it makes me think he still believes it.”
A similar situation sparked outrage in 2006 when Judge Edward Cashman of Vermont issued a 60-day jail sentence to a man who was convicted of having a 4-year sexual relationship with a 10-year-old girl.