Judge Decides It Was 'Illegal' to Sentence Teacher to 30 Days for Rape

Illustration for article titled Judge Decides It Was 'Illegal' to Sentence Teacher to 30 Days for Rape

Last week, Montana judge Todd Baugh sentenced high school teacher Stacey Rambold to 30 days in jail for raping his 14-year-old student, who later killed herself. He also made some hideously tone-deaf comments in which he essentially blamed the teenaged rape victim, Cherice Moralez, stating that she was "older than her chronological age." Baugh furthermore completely overlooked the abusive power dynamic inherent in a teacher-student relationship (he said that the victim "was as much in control of the situation as he was" and that "it wasn't forcible, beat-up rape").


Following widespread — and entirely appropriate — outrage, Judge Baugh has changed his tune considerably: he's called a new hearing on Friday after realizing that suspending all but 30 days of the original 15-year sentence would violate the mandatory two-year minimum sentencing required by state law. “In the Court’s opinion, imposing a sentence which suspends more than the mandatory minimum would be an illegal sentence,” wrote Baugh. Yeah, duh. (Baugh also publicly apologized for his victim blaming comments, describing himself as a "blithering idiot." Duh again.)

The judge's realization that the sentence is illegal gives prosecutors the opportunity to overturn the decision, which is the most heartening news pertaining to this case so far. According to NBC News, "the only avenue prosecutors have to contest the penalty is to show legal error." This oversight would constitute a massive legal error — if they succeed in proving it, they'll be able to pursue a possible appeal and seek a longer sentence.

However, though Rambold may see more time in prison, the effect of Baugh's callous words cannot be erased by legal action. Auliea Hanlon, the victim's mother, states that she was left "horrified" by the sentence and the judge's comments. She told NBC News, "I don't believe in justice any more. It was a joke." To CNN, she said, "How could she be in control of the situation? He was a teacher. She was a student. She wasn't in control of anything. She was 14."

So far, over 45,000 people have signed a MoveOn.org petition calling for Baugh's resignation.

"Judge G. Todd Baugh Orders New Sentencing Hearing For Convicted Rapist Stacey Rambold" [HuffPo]
Image via AP.


I'm assuming this will get buried, but hey. As the organizer of the protest against Judge Baugh here in Billings last week, I think there are a few heartening notes to take away from this whole situation — among them, the fact that three women (two of whom were victims of abuse themselves) have spearheaded a grassroots movement to challenge the sentence, get the judge impeached, and radically shift the way we talk about rape in our community. In addition to garnering national news coverage, we have published an op-ed, gotten almost 50,000 petition signatures — hell, we even spent half an hour discussing the problems of victim shaming on the most popular hit music station in town during their morning show today. I know it's easy to focus just on the negative (obviously there's a lot), but try to take heart in the fact that not everyone from Billings is a "blithering idiot."