Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Ex-teacher to get longer sentence for rape

A former high school teacher who served one month in prison after being convicted of raping a 14-year-old student faces more time behind bars after the Montana Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that his original sentence was too short.

Justices ordered the case of Stacey Rambold assigned to a new judge for re-sentencing. The decision means Rambold must serve a minimum of two years in prison under state sentencing laws, Yellowstone County Attorney Scott Twito said.

The victim, Cherice Moralez, killed herself while Rambold was awaiting trial.

In its ruling, the Montana Supreme Court cited, in part, the inflammatory comments of the sentencing judge, G. Todd Baugh, who drew wide condemnation for suggesting that the victim shared some responsibility for her rape.

Baugh said during Rambold's sentencing last August that the teenager was "probably as much in control of the situation as the defendant" and appeared "older than her chronological age." He later apologized.

Rambold was released after fulfilling the original sentence last fall.

He was a 47-year-old business teacher at Billings Senior High School at the time of the 2007 rape. Cherice Moralez was one of his students. Rambold admitted to raping the teenager on several occasions in his home, car and office.

After the teenager came forward to accuse Rambold, she was ostracized at school, relatives said. Her suicide in 2010 took away the prosecution's main witness.

Rambold's attorneys insisted in court filings that the original sentence was appropriate, and cited a "lynch mob" mentality following a public outcry over the case.

Like Baugh, they suggested the girl bore some responsibility and referenced videotaped interviews with her before she committed suicide. Those interviews remain under seal by the court.

During last year's sentencing hearing, prosecutors sought a 20-year prison term for Rambold with 10 years suspended.

But Baugh followed the recommendations of Rambold's attorney and handed down a sentence of 15 years with all but 31 days suspended and a one-day credit for time served. Rambold was required to register as a sex offender upon his release and to remain on probation through 2028.

After a public outcry, Baugh acknowledged the sentence violated state law and attempted retroactively to revise it but was blocked when the state filed its appeal.

A formal complaint against Baugh from the Montana Judicial Standards Commission is now pending with the state Supreme Court. Baugh, 72, says he plans to retire when his six-year term expires at the end of the year.

Contributing: tbt*

 
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