Gazette opinion: Case won’t end when Rambold is released

2013-09-19T00:00:00Z 2013-09-26T10:37:04Z Gazette opinion: Case won’t end when Rambold is released The Billings Gazette
September 19, 2013 12:00 am

Next week Stacey Rambold is expected to be released from Montana State Prison. He will have served his 30 days as District Court Judge G. Todd Baugh ordered him to do on Aug. 26.

But Rambold’s criminal case isn’t over. He will be on probation supervised by the Montana Department of Corrections and subject to oversight by the Yellowstone County Attorney’s Office.

He is required to register as a sex offender, so his name and address will be listed on Montana’s Violent and Sexual Offender Registry.

Most importantly, an appeal of his 30-day prison sentence is under way at the Montana Supreme Court.

The Attorney General’s Office and Yellowstone County Attorney’s Office filed notice of appeal on Sept. 5.

The appeal itself must be filed within 60 days, and then the process of the court considering the appeal begins.

The process is likely to be frustratingly slow for all of us who see injustice in this case with a sentence of 30 days of incarceration and 15 years suspended.

The rule of law must prevail. Both Baugh and prosecutors now agree that the judge erred in ordering such a short time in prison for the former teacher’s rape of a 14-year-old student.

However, Rambold’s attorney, prosecutors and a majority of the Montana Supreme Court agreed that Baugh couldn’t simply re-sentence Rambold.

Public fury cannot change the sentence, nor should it. But an order from the Supreme Court can.

We expect the court eventually will order re-sentencing that lawfully reflects the severity of the crime against a young girl.

There may be other aspects of sentencing for sexual assaults that should be clarified with revisions of Montana law, so the unconscionably brief prison term in the Rambold case cannot be repeated in any future case. There is time to work on effective proposals that can be enacted by the 2015 Legislature.

But the Rambold case must be decided based on the state law that is in place now.

We still have faith that the Montana justice system will correct the egregious mistake made on Aug. 26.

Copyright 2014 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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