Controversial Montana teacher rape sentence appealed

Controversial Montana teacher rape sentence appealed

Controversial Montana teacher rape sentence appealed

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by ABC News

WHAS11.com

Posted on September 4, 2013 at 7:52 PM

(ABC News) -- Montana state prosecutors are appealing a controversial ruling in which a judge sentenced a former teacher to only 30 days in jail for raping a 14-year-old girl who later committed suicide.

Prosecutors are appealing the sentence as "illegal," according to the Associated Press.

The appeal came the day after District Judge G. Todd Baugh moved to hold a hearing to determine whether the sentence should be increased to two years.

"In this court's opinion, imposing a sentence which suspends more than the mandatory minimum would be an illegal sentence," Baugh wrote in a order filed Tuesday. The court order stated that state law seems to require a two year mandatory minimum, not 30 days.


He said that prosecutors did not "object or otherwise inform the court on the issue of the applicable mandatory minimum" until after the sentencing.

Baugh scheduled a new hearing with the defendant present for Friday, but a Montana Attorney General spokesman told the AP that Baugh will be asked to cancel the hearing pending the a decision on the appeal.

Stacey Rambold, 54, a former teacher at Billings Senior High School, was sentenced to 15 years in prison with all but 31 days suspended and received credit for one day served.

Baugh became the subject of widespread backlash after he said in court that the victim was "older than her chronological age" and had "as much control of the situation" as the teacher, according to the Billings Gazette.

He later said that he regretted the comments.

"I don't know what I was thinking or trying to say," Baugh later told The Billings Gazette. "It was just stupid and wrong."

Though he voiced regret for his choice of words, Baugh initially stood by the 30-day jail sentence.

The sentence has drawn anger from the public. A protest against the judge was held last week and a MoveOn.org petition calling for the judge's resignation has more than 47,000 signatures today.

Rambold was charged in October 2008 with three counts of sexual intercourse without consent after he was accused of having a sexual relationship with Cherice Moralez, who was 14 at the time, according to court documents.

She committed suicide in February 2010 while the case was pending.

Rambold entered a three-year deferred prosecution agreement in July 2010. The deal said that the charges would be dismissed if he completed a sex offender treatment program, did not have contact with children and met other conditions, according to the Associated Press.

He agreed to the deal and admitted to one rape charge.

The case re-surfaced in December 2012 when prosecutors discovered that Rambold had been terminated from the sex offender program and had unsupervised visits with minors, who were family members, according to the AP.

Rambold's defense attorney said that Rambold has continued his treatment with a different program and was found low risk to re-offend after an evaluation, the AP reported.

"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 the Billings Gazette. "No wonder people are upset. I'd be upset, too, if that happened."

The judge said that the reasons for Rambold's termination from the sex offender program were not serious enough to warrant the lengthy prison sentence the prosecution was seeking.

Baugh did not respond to requests for comment from ABC News.

The case resulted in a $91,000 wrongful death settlement between the school district and Moralez's family and Rambold reached a confidential settlement with the family, according to the AP.

 

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