Tuesday, January 16, 2018
News Roundup

Montana judge defends 30-day sentence for girl's rape

BILLINGS, Mont. — Faced with growing backlash, a Billings, Mont., judge who sentenced a man to 30 days for raping a 14-year-old girl is standing by his decision and comments that the girl was older than her "chronological age" when it came to sexual matters.

District Judge G. Todd Baugh handed down the sentence Monday after former Billings Senior High School teacher Stacey Rambold, 54, was terminated from a sexual offender treatment program that was part of a deal to have his prosecution deferred. The judge said he wasn't convinced that the reasons for Rambold's termination from the program were serious enough to warrant a 10-year prison term recommended by prosecutors.

In handing down the sentence, Baugh also said Cherice Moralez was "older than her chronological age" and "as much in control of the situation" as the teacher.

Moralez killed herself in 2010 at age 16 while the case was pending.

A petition for the judge's censure is being drafted and a protest was scheduled for Thursday at Veterans Memorial Park, which adjoins Yellowstone County Courthouse in downtown Billings.

The girl's mother, Auleia Hanlon, left the sentencing hearing screaming, "You people suck!" She said in a statement Tuesday she no longer believes in justice after Baugh's remarks and sentence, the Billings Gazette reported.

"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," Hanlon said. "I guess somehow it makes a rape more acceptable if you blame the victim, even if she was only 14."

Under state law, children younger than 16 cannot consent to sexual intercourse.

Baugh told the newspaper Tuesday that he stood by his comments that Moralez was a troubled youth who was older than her age when it came to sexual matters. That didn't make Rambold's sex with Moralez any less of a crime, he said.

"Obviously, a 14-year-old can't consent. I think that people have in mind that this was some violent, forcible, horrible rape," Baugh said. "It was horrible enough as it is just given her age, but it wasn't this forcible beat-up rape."

Moralez's death complicated the case, Baugh said. The prosecution and defense reached an agreement after her death that Rambold would enter sexual-offender treatment.

If the former teacher completed treatment and complied with other conditions, the case would have been closed.

Rambold was terminated from the program in November when it was learned that he had been having unsupervised visits with minors, who were family members, and did not inform counselors that he had been having sexual relations with a woman.

"I think what people are seeing is a sentence for rape of 30 days. Obviously on the face of it, if you look at it that way, it's crazy," Baugh said. "No wonder people are upset. I'd be upset, too, if that happened."

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