Former Mont. teacher gets 30 days for student rape

District Judge G. Todd Baugh sentenced Stacey Dean Rambold to 15 years in prison for sexual intercourse without consent, with all but 31 days suspended.

BILLINGS, Mont. — A former Billings Senior High School teacher who pleaded guilty to raping a 14-year-old student who later killed herself has been sentenced to 30 days in jail by a judge who said the victim was "older than her chronological age" and "as much in control of the situation" as the teacher.

Teacher who raped suicidal teen gets just 30 days in jail

Teacher who raped suicidal teen gets just 30 days in jail
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A Montana judge who sentenced a former teacher to 30 days for raping a 14-year-old girl is standing by his comments that the girl was older than her "chronological age" when it came to sexual matters.

But District Judge G. Todd Baugh says that doesn't make 54-year-old Stacey Rambold's actions any less of a crime. The girl killed herself in February 2010 while the case was pending.

In handing down the sentence Monday, Baugh said the girl was "older than her chronological age" and "as much in control of the situation" as the teacher.

Baugh tells the Billings Gazette that a 14-year-old girl can't consent, but this situation was not a "forcible beat-up rape."

He says the girl's death also complicated the county attorney's case.

The girl's mother repeatedly screamed, "You people suck!" and stormed out of the courtroom Monday after the sentence was read.

Rambold, now 54, was charged in October 2008 with three counts of sexual intercourse without consent alleging that he had an ongoing sexual relationship with Cherice Morales, starting the previous year when she was 14.

Morales took her own life in February 2010 while the case was pending.

In July 2010, Rambold entered a three-year deferred prosecution agreement with prosecutors that said the charges would be dismissed if Rambold completed a sex offender treatment program and met other conditions, including having no contact with children. He also admitted to one rape charge.

The case was revived last December when prosecutors learned Rambold had been terminated from the sex offender treatment program.

Treatment provider Michael Sullivan said Rambold started missing meetings in August 2012, but Sullivan said he met with Rambold and he appeared to be back on track with his treatment.

Rambold was terminated from the program in November when it was learned that he had been having unsupervised visits with minors, who were family members, and did not inform counselors that he had been having sexual relations with a woman.

Defense attorney Jay Lansing said Rambold has since continued his treatment with a different program and an evaluation found him at low risk to re-offend.

Baugh said he was not convinced that the reasons for Rambold's termination from treatment were serious enough to warrant the 10-year prison term prosecutors recommended.

CALL FOR RESIGNATION

Yellowstone County Attorney Scott Twito told The Associated Press on Tuesday that he would not appeal the judge's sentence.

"We respect the court's sentencing decision. We obviously disagree with it, based on the recommendations my attorneys made, but it appears to be legally permissible," he said.

Asked about Baugh's reasoning that a 14-year-old girl below the state's age of consent had an equal share of control of the relationship, Twito declined to answer directly.

"The judge's reasons are his reasons and his reasons alone. He has broad authority under state law, given the proper criteria," Twito said.

The case resulted in a $91,000 wrongful death settlement between the school district and Morales' family.

Rambold reached a confidential settlement with the girl's family.

Protesters are calling for Baugh's resignation. Baugh earlier told the Billings Gazette that what he said was "stupid and wrong." The teen in the case committed suicide when she was 16.

Faced with backlash over his comments and the sentence that protesters considered too light, Baugh wrote an apology in a brief letter to the editor to the Gazette. The newspaper provided a copy of the apology to The Associated Press.

"I'm not sure just what I was attempting to say but it did not come out correct," he wrote. "What I said is demeaning of all women, not what I believe and irrelevant to the sentencing. My apologies to all my fellow citizens."

"I will add an addendum to the court file to hopefully better explain the sentence," he added.

Community organizer Sheena Rice says a Thursday protest outside the courthouse will go on, despite the apology. She says Baugh should have known better as a judge than to blame the victim.

A petition will be circulated at the protest calling for Baugh's resignation. An online version of the petition had more than 8,500 signatures by Wednesday morning.

If the petition and protest aren't enough to force Baugh's resignation, protesters will shift to defeating him in the 2014 election, Rice said.

The girl's mother, Auleia Hanlon, said in a statement to the Gazette that she no longer believes in justice after Baugh's sentence and remarks about her daughter.

"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," Hanlon said. "I guess somehow it makes a rape more acceptable if you blame the victim, even if she was only 14."

Under state law, children younger than 16 cannot consent to sexual intercourse.

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