In a move towards sanity and hopefully justice, a court in Montana today overturned the original 30-day sentence for a teacher convicted of raping a 14-year-old student.
Stacey Dean Rambold was convicted of the 2007 rape of Cherice Moralez. However, when Rambold was sentenced for the crime, a particularly clueless judge sentenced him to only 30 days in prison, igniting a firestorm of outrage across the country. District Judge G. Todd Baugh said the victim (who committed suicide before her 17th birthday) "was as much in control of the situation as he was" and said the crime "wasn't forcible, beat-up rape." Under Montana law, children younger than 16 cannot legally consent. Baugh has since tried to backtrack from his comments, but the damage was already done. Rambold served his 30 days and was released.
Stories like this are why rage gifs were invented, people.
But thanks to a new court ruling, Rambold may finally see more time in prison. In a unanimous decision, the Montana Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that the original sentence handed down to Rambold was indeed too short. Via the Associated Press:
The decision means Rambold must serve a minimum of two years in prison under state sentencing laws, Yellowstone County Attorney Scott Twito said.
Rambold was released after fulfilling the original sentence last fall and is expected to remain free pending his reappearance in state District Court.
The court also assigned a new judge to the case, specifically calling out Baugh's bullshit in doing so:
The high court cited, in part, the inflammatory comments of the sentencing judge, [Baugh], who drew wide condemnation for suggesting that the victim shared some responsibility for her rape. Baugh said during Rambold's sentencing in August that the teenager was "probably as much in control of the situation as the defendant." He later apologized.
During August's sentencing, the judge appeared sympathetic to the defendant, fueling a barrage of complaints against him from advocacy groups and private citizens. It also led to a formal complaint against Baugh from the Montana Judicial Standards Commission that's now pending with the state Supreme Court.
Justices said they intend to deal with Baugh separately. But their sharp criticism of the judge's actions signals that some sort of punishment is likely.
"Judge Baugh's statements reflected an improper basis for his decision and cast serious doubt on the appearance of justice," Justice Michael Wheat wrote. "There is no basis in the law for the court's distinction between the victim's 'chronological age' and the court's perception of her maturity."
Wednesday's ruling came as a result of an appeal filed by the state Department of Justice seeking to overturn the sentence. Attorney General Tim Fox said Wednesday's decision "rebuffed attempts to place blame on a child victim of this horrible crime." (Baugh's attempt to revise his original sentence was blocked when the state filed its own appeal.)
Baugh, 72, said he deserved to be the brunt of rage over this case and promises to retire at the end of the year. There is still a petition calling for his resignation, if anyone is interested.
The family also responded to today's news:
The family of victim Cherice Moralez issued a statement through attorney Shane Colton saying the court's decision had restored their faith in the judicial system. The statement urged the family's supporters to continue working together to keep children safe from sexual predators.
The case will be assigned to a new judge next week. Rambold is expected to get a much stiffer sentence this time around.