The attorney for a Montana teacher serving 10 years in prison in a notorious student rape case said her client's pending appeal is frivolous, an unexpected move that could end the defendant's chances for a reduced term.
Assistant Appellate Defender Eileen Larkin filed a request with the state Supreme Court to let her drop the case of Stacey Dean Rambold, a former Billings Senior High School teacher who raped a 14-year-old freshman. The girl later committed suicide.
The request, made public Thursday, marks yet another turn in a case that's dragged on almost a decade.
The high court gave Rambold 30 days to respond.
"After that, generally speaking, the court will issue an order dismissing the case as totally frivolous," Supreme Court Clerk Ed Smith said.
Larkin submitted a brief Wednesday in which she said it was her duty to inform the high court that there were "no non-frivolous issues" in Rambold's appeal. She cited a 1967 U.S. Supreme Court case, Anders versus California, in which justices said in a 6-3 ruling that lawyers don't have to argue a client's defense when they have no grounds to do so.
Rambold was 47 in 2007 when he raped Cherice Moralez, a student in his business class.
Moralez killed herself while charges against Rambold were pending, weakening the prosecution's case and eventually leading a state judge to sentence Rambold initially to just one month in prison. The state Supreme Court overturned that sentence as too lenient in 2014, and another judge resentenced Rambold to 15 years with five suspended.
An attorney for the victim's mother, Auliea Hanlon, said it appears the longer sentence will now stand.
"She's of course pleased and relieved," attorney Shane Colton said. "Auliea has always maintained any appeal would be frivolous, but it's been so hard to put this behind her because it's never gone away."
In the wake of Rambold's resentencing, State District Judge G. Todd Baugh was censured and suspended for 31 days over his handling of the case. Baugh, the son of legendary Washington Redskins quarterback Samuel "Slinging Sammy" Baugh, had suggested Moralez shared some of the blame for her rape.
Under Montana law, children younger than 16 cannot consent to sexual intercourse.
But the judge said Moralez appeared "older than her chronological age" and "was probably as much in control of the situation as the defendant." Rambold's attorneys during his original sentencing also suggested Moralez bore some responsibility, citing interviews of the girl conducted by law enforcement prior to her death. Those videos have never been publicly released.
Baugh's comments drew widespread outrage. He retired under public pressure after almost 30 years on the bench.