Stacey Rambold reacts to his sentence

Stacey Dean Rambold

Gazette Staff

A former Billings Senior High School teacher convicted of raping a 14-year-old student who later killed herself may be released from the Montana State Prison on parole.

Stacey Dean Rambold, 57, was sentenced in September 2014 to 15 years in prison, with five years suspended, after the Montana Supreme Court overturned a lower court’s sentence of 31 days in prison. Rambold was parole eligible on Feb. 25, 2016.

Rambold had a hearing before the Montana Board of Pardons and Parole on Jan. 30, said Department of Corrections Communications Director Judy Beck on Thursday. During the hearing, Rambold proposed a plan to be paroled to California, which the parole board accepted. The proposal was submitted to the Interstate Compact Unit, which sent the request to California. The unit is waiting for approval from California, Beck said. 

Rambold has spent about two and a half years in the Montana State Prison.

The 14-year-old’s mother, Auliea Hanlon, was not aware Rambold was up for parole, she said.

“He should still be in jail,” Hanlon said Thursday. “Two years. I spent longer than that trying to put him in jail.”

If the request is approved, Rambold must register as a sex offender in California, comply with court conditions of release and wear a GPS monitor for a time, Beck said.

Montana Board of Pardons and Parole Executive Director Kristy Cobban said Rambold was denied parole in 2016 so he could complete sex offender treatment. He returned in 2017 after completing the treatment and submitted a plan to be paroled to California, Cobban said.

If California does not want to supervise him, he will have to come before the board again and have a new parole plan approved, Cobban said. 

Typically, California determines whether the state has the resources to supervise a parolee from another state, Cobban said. If paroled, Rambold must enroll in chemical dependency counseling and sex offender treatment and must stay away from casinos and places where alcohol is the main item of sale, Cobban said.

The VINE network, which provides information about an offender's custody status and location in real time, sent out notifications about Rambold's parole hearing in December. The VINE network made four successful delivers by email and four successful deliveries by text, but two phone messages did not get delivered, Beck said. It is not clear who the phone numbers belonged to, Beck said.

Hanlon does not want Rambold released.

Rambold, a former business and technology teacher at Senior High, was charged in 2008 with raping Cherice Moralez. The girl reported she had sexual contact with Rambold three times, including once in Rambold’s office.

Prior to Rambold being sentenced, Moralez died by suicide on Feb. 6, 2010, 20 days before her 17th birthday.

After Moralez's death, Rambold signed a deferred-prosecution agreement that required him to attend a sex-offender treatment program.

He was booted from that program for not disclosing a sexual relationship with an adult woman and having an unauthorized visit with the children of his relatives. He was prosecuted for these violations.

In 2013, Judge G. Todd Baugh sentenced Rambold to 15 years in prison, with all but 31 days suspended, for sexual intercourse without consent.

During Rambold’s sentencing, Baugh made statements suggesting the victim may have been partly responsible. 

"It was a troubled youth, but a youth who was probably as much in control of the situation as the defendant, one that was seemingly, although troubled, older than her chronological age," Baugh said.

Baugh was roundly criticized, including being the target of a protest on the courthouse lawn. 

The judge was later censured and suspended for 31 days over his handling of the case. Soon after, he retired under public pressure after almost 30 years on the bench.

The Montana Supreme Court reversed Baugh’s order after the court determined Baugh’s sentence was improper and went on to criticize Baugh for comments he made about the victim's age and his misunderstanding of the relationship that existed between an adult teacher and a minor pupil.

Another judge in Yellowstone County District Court resentenced Rambold to 15 years with five suspended.

Hanlon sued School District 2 over her daughter's death and in 2012, settled the suit for just under $91,000.

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Justice reporter for The Billings Gazette.