Protesters in Billings, Mont., are calling for the resignation of Judge G. Todd Baugh of Yellowstone County District after he sentenced a former teacher with just 30 days in jail for the rape of his former student, who later committed suicide. In particular, Baugh’s comments during the sentencing sparked outrage across the nation when he said the victim “seemed older than her chronological age” and was “as much in control of the situation” as the teacher.
Baugh has since apologized for the comments, saying on KTVQ that his comments were “demeaning to all women” and “irrelevant to the sentencing.” But on Tuesday, after the sentencing, Baugh stood by his comments and said, “I think people have in mind that this was some violent, forcible, horrible rape … but it wasn’t this forcible beat-up rape,” according to the Billings Gazette.
Stacey Dean Rambold, 54, worked as a school teacher at Billings Senior High School, where he taught 14-year-old Cherice Morales and began a sexual relationship with her in 2008; the legal age of sexual consent in Montana is 16. Morales committed suicide at the age of 16 as the case went to criminal court.
Hundreds of protesters are expected to gather today at 12:15 MDT in the park that adjoins Yellowstone County Courthouse, where Baugh works. Over 600 people have RSVPed on the Facebook event page and over 30,000 people have signed an online petition to remove Baugh from office on MoveOn.org.
Co-organizer Sheena Rice of the Montana Organizing Project said the response has been overwhelming. “This wasn’t just for a few angry feminists,” she told Metro. “Almost everybody in Billings is very angry … We want to see all of the children protected.”
Rice said she expects a broad variety of people from Billings and outside the community – one lawyer is even driving 220 miles in order to attend the protest. Co-organizer Marian Bradley, Montana president for the National Organization for Women, called Baugh’s comments outrageous.
“I went, 'This is crazy,’” she said. “We’re getting into victim blaming and talking about ‘legitimate rape’ but rape is rape, and rape of a minor is a felony.”
She said she and many other members of the Billings community do not accept Baugh’s apology.
“It’s too little, too late, and in my opinion, people’s first responses are usually how they really feel,” she said. “To quote a lot of people, it was just garbage and I think the apology was a way for him to cool the situation.”
Kate Olp, who is organizing the protest with Rice and Bradley, said Baugh’s comments and subsequent recant have made it clear that he should not be a judge.
“These [comments] remove part of the responsibility from the abuser’s shoulders and put it on the very fragile shoulders of a hurting child,” Olp told Metro. “The fact that a judge would do that when he was given the opportunity to make right what was originally a lenient sentence really upset me and the Billings community.”
Bradley said that in case Baugh refuses to resign, she is preparing complaints against the judge for the judicial review board in order to force his resignation.
“We need to know our judges are educated on rape and what consent is and what sexual as a minor,” she said.
Yellowstone County Attorney Scott Twito said Wednesday that his office is reviewing the sentence.