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Judge G. Todd Baugh backpedals on Montana rape sentence

Judge G. Todd Baugh of Yellowstone County District in Montana said the sentence he gave a former teacher for the rape of a student may be illegal.

Cherice Morales was 14 years old when her schoolteacher, Stacey Dean Rambold, raped her on three separate occasions starting in 2008. She committed suicide at the age of 16 when the rape case went to criminal court.  Credit: Auliea Hanlon / Facebook Cherice Morales was 14 years old when her schoolteacher, Stacey Dean Rambold, raped her on three separate occasions starting in 2008. She committed suicide at the age of 16 when the rape case went to criminal court.
Credit: Auliea Hanlon/Facebook

Judge G. Todd Baugh of Yellowstone County District in Montana said the sentence he gave a former teacher for the rape of a student may be illegal, according to the Billings Gazette.

Baugh came under fire for sentencing former schoolteacher Stacey Dean Rambold, 54, to just 30 days in jail for the rape of his former student, who later committed suicide.

Now, Baugh appears to be backpedaling. He filed an order Tuesday and set a hearing for Friday afternoon to review his sentence and determine if it should be revised. He said in the order that the mandatory minimum may have been two years instead of 30 days, according to the Gazette. “Imposing a sentence which suspends more than the mandatory minimum would be an illegal sentence,” Baugh wrote in the order.

Yellowstone County Attorney Scott Twito told the Gazette that he has been working with the Montana Attorney General's Office to determine whether to appeal the case to the state Supreme Court.

Baugh made national headlines after he made comments that the victim “seemed older than her chronological age” and was “as much in control of the situation” as her rapist. These comments fueled protests last week for his resignation.

Baugh later apologized for the comments, saying on KTVQ that his comments were “demeaning to all women” and “irrelevant to the sentencing.” About 400 protesters gathered near the courthouse in Billings last Thursday, calling for Baugh to resign. Over 40,000 people have signed an online petition to remove him from office on MoveOn.org.

Sheena Rice, one of the organizers of the protest and co-founder of grassroots movement Justice 4 Cherice, said she and other activists still want Baugh to resign, even after his admission today. Rice told Metro, "This really does show that his original sentence of 30 days was based on his misconception about rape. It's pretty evident that he failed to uphold his duty as a judge.I've never heard of this happening before– a judge rescheduling a hearing because he acknowledges that he probably did something illegal in the original sentence."

Rice said she and her colleagues are working with lawyers to file a complaint with the Montana Judicial Standards Commission.

Rambold worked as a 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.

 
 
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