The Yellowstone Area Bar Association’s decision to honor censured former District Judge G. Todd Baugh is gathering nationwide attention.
UltraViolet, a national women’s group that in 2013 collected 120,000 signatures calling for Baugh’s dismissal, is now petitioning the Montana State Bar Association “to stop condoning rape.” The group said Thursday it has more than 33,000 signatures.
Now retired, Baugh was censured by the Montana Supreme Court for saying that a male teacher’s 14-year-old rape victim “seemed older than her chronological age” and was “as much in control of the situation” as her teacher, Stacey Rambold.
The victim committed suicide after the charges were filed against Rambold. Baugh originally sentenced Rambold to 31 days jail with 14 years, 11 months suspended.
The Supreme Court later ordered a resentencing, and another judge sentenced Rambold to 15 years in prison with five years suspended.
The Yellowstone Area Bar Association chose Baugh this spring for its lifetime achievement award. Jessica Fehr, Yellowstone Bar Association president, said Thursday that her organization wouldn’t comment about the award. She wouldn’t disclose who nominated Baugh and questioned how many of UltraViolet’s petitioners were Montanans or Montana State Bar Association members.
Marian Bradley, president of the Montana chapter of the National Organization for Women, said she spoke with Fehr in April when news of the award broke. Bradley said she was told that Baugh’s 30 years on the bench should not be overshadowed by a single incident. Bradley, who worked with UltraViolet on the original petition against Baugh, disagreed with the honor.
“I don’t think he should be getting the award.” Bradley said. “I think it sends a bad message to sexual assault victims that not only can a judge can say these things, but that a community of his peers is going to honor him.”
Two years after Baugh’s sentencing of Rambold, the willing participation of juveniles in their own rapes is still debated.
Tuesday, in Yellowstone County District Court, a defense attorney questioned whether a pregnant 17-year-old girl raped by her Youth Services counselor had acted voluntarily. The question was asked by defense attorney Vern Woodward as he questioned Denise Baum, a Billings Police Detective.
Woodward’s client, Brad Douglas Johnson was sentenced to the custody of the Department of Corrections for 15 years, with 10 years suspended.
Karin Roland, UltraViolet organizing director, told the Gazette it was outrageous to suggest that teen rape victims shared responsibility for their rapes by authority figures like Rambold and Johnson.
In the case of Johnson’s 17-year-old pregnant victim, Baum told the court the girl was placed in Youth Services because the teen had nowhere else to go.
Mark D. Parker, Montana State Bar Association president, said the organization has no control over what the Yellowstone Area Bar Association Does.
“The State Bar of Montana does not condone rape and resents any implication otherwise,” Parker told The Gazette. “I don’t know of one thing we can tell our members to do. We don’t have any authority over our members actually.”