Yellowstone County Attorney Scott Twito said Wednesday his office is reviewing the sentence imposed on former Billings teacher Stacey Rambold for the rape of a 14-year-old student who later committed suicide.
"I can't instantly appeal this," Twito said, expressing some frustration that his office has recently received what he described as "hate emails."
"I have no legal authority in Montana whatsoever to appeal a sentence because I disagree with the sentence handed down by the judge," he said.
If a factual or legal issue is identified, Twito said, the appeal process is set forth in state law.
Judge G. Todd Baugh sentenced Rambold on Monday to 15 years in prison, with all but 31 days suspended, for felony sexual intercourse without consent. Rambold got credit for one day already served.
Chief Deputy County Attorney Rod Souza argued at the hearing for a prison sentence of 20 years, with 10 years suspended.
Baugh explained his sentence in part by saying the victim, Cherice Moralez, was "as much in control of the situation" as Rambold, and the girl was "older than her chronological age."
The case and the statements by the judge sparked outrage across the country as it was picked up by national and international media outlets.
Part of that coverage included an Associated Press story earlier this week that implied Twito would not review the Rambold sentence for a possible appeal, which is incorrect, he said.
Twito said it is standard procedure for his office to review sentences as prosecutors prepare the judgment order, the formal document outlining a defendant's sentence that is later signed by the judge.
It usually takes several days or longer for the document to be prepared by the County Attorney's Office and then signed by the judge.
The review by prosecutors as they prepare the document focuses on whether the sentence conforms to the facts of the case and the law, Twito explained.
"We will review this matter, as we do all matters, as the judgment is prepared," he said. "It's truly what we do in every case."
Twito said he has already consulted with the appellate division of the Montana Attorney General's Office about the case.