A Montana judge has sparked a national outpouring of fury after he ordered a now 54-year-old former high school teacher convicted of the statutory rape of a 14-year-old girl to serve just 31 days in prison, reports the Missoulian.
The crime occurred in 2007. The girl, Cherice Morales, later committed suicide.
Yellowstone County district judge G. Todd Baugh was not moved by the girl’s plight, however. In his view, in fact, the 14-year-old Billings rape victim was “as much in control of the situation” as the teacher was, notes the Missoulian. He said she was also a problem-plagued kid who was “older than her chronological age.”
Under Montana law, a person under the age of 16 doesn’t have the legal ability to agree to sexual intercourse. Therefore, the relationship between Morales and the disgraced Billings Senior High School teacher, Stacey Dean Rambold was felony rape.
Baugh sentenced Rambold to 15 years in prison. If that sounds harsh, don’t fret: Baugh suspended all but 31 days of the sentence (so approximately 5,450 suspended days).
Rambold will get credit for the one day he has already served in jail for his crime. He will also spend 15 years on probation and be required to register as a sex offender.
The deceased girl’s mother, Auliea Hanlon, was very disappointed in the outcome.
“You people suck!” she yelled several times before leaving the courtroom angrily.
Before Baugh handed down the flimsy sentence, Hanlon had testified that Rambold’s statutory rape of Morales was a “major factor” in the girl’s later suicide. The distraught mother pleaded with the judge for a harsh sentence.
A doctor who is treating Rambold also testified, assuring the judge that the convict poses a low risk to society.
Morales killed herself a few weeks prior to her 17th birthday, around the time Rambold was criminally charged because of their illicit, illegal affair.
Rambold’s jail sentence was only imposed after he violated requirements imposed on him because of his sex offender status. (Baugh characterized the violations as minor, according to KULR; they involved therapy rules and interaction with his own nieces and nephews).
“I was horrified,” Hanlon said later, according to local NBC affiliate KULR-TV. “And I don’t believe in justice any more. There is a statement prepared. It pretty much says it all. It was a joke.”
In that later statement, Hanlon said of her daughter: “She wasn’t even old enough to get a driver’s license. But Judge Baugh, who never met our daughter, justified the paltry sentence saying she was older than her chronological age.”
Baugh stood firmly by his sentence.
“Obviously, a 14-year-old can’t consent. I think that people have in mind that this was some violent, forcible, horrible rape,” the judge said. “It was horrible enough as it is, just given her age, but it wasn’t this forcible beat-up rape.”
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