Stacey Rambold, the former Billings teacher whose 30-day sentence for raping a 14-year-old student brought scorn on a Montana judge from across the country, was released Thursday morning from the Montana State Prison.
Prison spokeswoman Linda Moodry said Rambold was set free at about 9:30 a.m. after completing the sentence imposed on him by Yellowstone County District Court Judge G. Todd Baugh on Aug. 26.
Rambold, 54, was ordered by Baugh to serve 15 years in prison, with all but 31 days suspended, for the 2007 rape of Cherice Moralez, who later committed suicide.
Rambold was given credit for one day served.
Rambold served his month-long sentence at the Martz Diagnostic Intake Unit, a prison facility adjacent to the main prison grounds in Deer Lodge where new inmates are screened before being placed in a more permanent housing unit, Moodry said.
Moodry said it appears Rambold served his time without incident. There is no record of any disciplinary issues at the prison involving Rambold, she said.
About four hours after he was released from prison, shortly before 1:30 p.m., Rambold arrived at the state Probation and Parole office on South 27th Street in Billings.
Rambold emerged from the office about an hour later and was met by several news crews. He did not respond to questions as he got into a waiting car.
Rambold will now be required to check in regularly with a probation officer in Billings to begin the probationary term of his sentence, which is set to end in 2028.
Rambold will also be required to register with the Yellowstone County Sheriff’s Office as a sex offender.
Moralez’s mother, Auliea Hanlon, said Wednesday she is disappointed that Rambold’s sentence didn’t keep him behind bars for a much longer time.
“It came very quickly,” she said of Rambold’s release from prison. “It seems like yesterday he went in.”
The sentence Rambold received, and statements made by Baugh about the victim, caused an uproar as national and international media outlets reported the story.
Moralez committed suicide in February 2010, shortly before her 17th birthday and while the criminal case against Rambold was pending in District Court.
A protest gathering on the courthouse lawn two days after Baugh announced the sentence drew hundreds to downtown Billings. Protesters demanded Baugh’s resignation, complaining that the sentence showed a bias against rape victims.
During the sentencing hearing, Baugh described Moralez as “older than her chronological age” and “as much in control of the situation” as Rambold, her former teacher.
Baugh apologized for the statements two days later, but the gesture failed to quiet his critics. Earlier this week, a formal complaint seeking the judge’s ouster was filed with the state Judicial Standards Commission.
The Montana Attorney General’s Office has also filed a notice of intent to appeal the case to the Montana Supreme Court. Prosecutors say the sentence imposed by Baugh was illegal because state law requires a mandatory minimum sentence of two years in such cases.
Hanlon said she holds out hope that the state’s highest court will “do the right thing” and order a longer sentence.
Court officials said the appeal process could take between six and 18 months.
Hanlon said she believes the appropriate sentence for Rambold is what was recommended by the prosecution at Rambold sentencing hearing; 20 years in prison with 10 years suspended.
Hanlon also said she has had nothing to do with the complaint filed against Baugh. The complaint to the Judicial Standards Commission was filed Tuesday in Helena by representatives of the Montana National Organization for Women and a women’s rights group known as UltraViolet.
“Stacey Rambold is my business, not Judge Baugh,” Hanlon said.
The case began in 2007, when Rambold was a Senior High business and technology teacher and Moralez was a freshman at the school. Prosecutors said Rambold groomed Moralez, whom they described as an at-risk child, for a sexual relationship.
Moralez later told a church counselor about her relationship with the teacher. The counselor told Hanlon, who reported the allegations to police.
Rambold, who had been warned by school officials in 2004 about inappropriate behavior toward female students, was immediately placed on paid leave while the school district and police conducted separate investigations.
Rambold later resigned his teaching job, and he was charged in 2008 with three counts of sexual intercourse without consent. Prosecutors said Rambold and Moralez had sexual contact at least three times, including once in his school office. Two other incidents occurred in Rambold’s vehicle and at his residence, prosecutors said.
The age of consent in Montana is 16.
Moralez’s suicide in 2010 eventually led to a deferred prosecution agreement between Rambold and prosecutors, who said at the time their case was severely hampered by the victim’s death.
The agreement required Rambold to complete a sex offender treatment program and, among other requirements, make a written confession to one of the three felony rape charges.
In return, prosecutors agreed to dismiss the case outright in three years if Rambold adhered to the terms of the agreement.
But the charges were revived last November when prosecutors learned that Rambold had been terminated from the sex offender treatment program. Rambold was kicked out of treatment for not telling counselors that he had contact with the minor children of relatives and had a sexual relationship with an adult woman.
In April, Rambold pleaded guilty to the rape charge he previously confessed to as part of the deferred prosecution agreement. Prosecutors agreed to dismiss the other two charges in exchange for his guilty plea.