Montana Appeals a Mere 31-day Sentence of a Man Convicted of Raping 14-year-old

A Montana teacher, Stacey Dean Rambold, was charged with three counts of sexual intercourse without consent in 2008. Rambold plead guilty to the rape and he was sentenced in August and released from a Montana prison on probation the next month. The teenage victim, Cherise Morales, took her own life in 2010.

Montana is now fighting to get Rambold back behind bars after he served only 31 days for raping a 14-year-old girl. Prosecutors filed an appeal Friday questioning the controversial 31-day sentence imposed on Rambold.

“The circumstance of a 47-year-old teacher having sexual intercourse with his 14-year-old student is precisely such a circumstance warranting a mandatory minimum sentence,” the appeal document said.

The Montana Attorney General’s Office filed its appeal with Montana Supreme Court stating that the sentencing by the district court did not meet the state’s mandatory minimum sentence. The response date to the appeal is currently unknown.

To make matters worse, during sentencing, the District Judge G. Todd Baugh made the following comment, [the teen victim] “seemed older than her chronological age.” Now i know all of you reading the judge’s comment above must be puzzled thinking, “therefore the rape wasn’t quite as illegal? and because she acted closer to 18 at the time, it was less wrong to rape her?”
The judge’s response to the public outrage over the inappropriate comment during sentencing was the following: “I made some references to the victim’s age and control…I’m not sure just what I was attempting to say at that point, but it didn’t come out correct. What I said was demeaning to all women, not what I believe in and irrelevant to the sentencing.”

Judge Baugh admitted to making a mistake in his original ruling and attempted to revisit his sentence in September, alleging that he did not know that the minimum sentence was two years. However, the state Supreme Court barred him from a new ruling. Because there is now an appeal pending, the district court judge no longer has the legal standing to change a sentence. Now, it is up to the Montana Supreme Court to decide any further legal matters relating to this case.

People are outraged at this judge, and they should be. I think his remarks were extraordinarily insensitive and ignorant. I found his “apology” insincere and forced. I’m confident he only chose to make the apology once he realized the world wide criticism he was receiving might cost him the upcoming election.

Unfortunately, I don’t expect his decision to be overturned on appeal. Prosecutors initially offered the defendant a program, in lieu of prison time. They were willing to drop his charges if he successfully completed all the conditions they laid out. In giving him the program, prosecutors, I believe, waived any minimum mandatory sentence under the guidelines. Only when he violated the terms of the program did his case come back before the judge for sentencing. The judge, it would appear, would be in his legal right to sentence him to anything, based on the prosecutor’s previous actions in this case. This is one case about which I hope I’m wrong.

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