Stacey Rambold, a former high school teacher who admitted having a sexual relationship with a female student who later committed suicide, left a state prison in Deer Lodge, Mont. Thursday after serving 30 days for felony statutory rape. Last month, Judge G. Todd Baugh had sentenced him to 15 years in prison, with all but 31 days suspended and one day of credit. Baugh was widely criticized for giving Rambold such a brief prison term.
Prosecutors plan to appeal. They argue that state law imposes a mandatory minimum sentence of two years on Rambold. He will remain free pending the appeal, unless he commits another offense.
The victim’s suicide complicated the case for the prosecution. Rambold had signed a deferred prosecution agreement with the state in 2010, when he admitted to a single count of rape. When he failed to complete a treatment program for sex offenders, the terms of the agreement allowed prosecutors to use his admission against him in seeking a 20-year-term with 10 years suspended. Baugh agreed with Rambold’s attorney, who recommended the effective 30-day sentence.
Baugh was also criticized for his remarks at the sentencing:
Baugh also made comments pinning some of the responsibility in the case on Moralez, whom the judge described as “older than her chronological age.”
The comments sparked outrage among many women’s groups, victim’s rights advocates and others, saying the judge was blaming the victim, who had not reached Montana’s age of consent, which is 16. . . .
A formal complaint to have Baugh removed from the bench for alleged bias is pending before the state Judicial Standards Commission.
The Washington Post’s editorial board also called for Baugh to resign:
So ill-suited is this judge to serve on the bench that, if he refuses the mounting calls for his resignation, Montana authorities should take the necessary action to remove him. . . .
The sentence in the 2008 case came after prosecutors refiled charges because Mr. Rambold failed to meet sex-offender treatment requirements and other conditions in an original plea deal. Prosecutors asked Judge Baugh to sentence Mr. Rambold to 20 years, with 10 years suspended; the girl’s mother, who testified that the rape was a major factor in her daughter’s 2010 suicide, pleaded for a prison sentence. The mother stormed from the courtroom when the sentence was announced, later issuing a statement that gave poignant testimony to the fallacy of blaming the victim: “She wasn’t even old enough to get a driver’s license.”
“I’m not sure just what I was attempting to say, but it did not come out correct,” the judge said in a mea culpa issued to the Billings Gazette on Wednesday. He said he would file an addendum to the court file to “hopefully better explain the sentence.” Actually, Montana residents, along with much of the nation, know all they need to know about this case and this judge. His parsing of the sexual exploitation of a troubled teenager by a teacher in a position of trust as not a “forcible, beat-up rape” — and his sentence of a mere 30 days — sent the message that this is a crime that is not to be taken all that seriously. Judge Baugh’s ignorant notions about rape and his insensitivity to victims are an absolute affront to justice, and he should immediately resign.
For past coverage of this story, continue reading here.