Sentencing, district judge's comments spark outrage

2013-12-29T00:00:00Z 2014-02-28T10:45:08Z Sentencing, district judge's comments spark outrageGazette Staff The Billings Gazette
December 29, 2013 12:00 am  • 

On Aug. 26, Yellowstone County District Judge G. Todd Baugh sparked outrage when he sentenced former teacher Stacey Dean Rambold, convicted of raping a 14-year-old student who later committed suicide, to spend 30 days in jail.

Baugh sentenced Rambold to 15 years in prison, with all but 31 days suspended, for sexual intercourse without consent. Rambold received credit for one day served.

Baugh said he listened to recorded statements given by Morales before her death and believes that while she was a troubled youth, she was "as much in control of the situation" as Rambold. The judge also said Morales was "older than her chronological age."

The judge's statements were picked up by numerous national and international news organizations and sparked outrage among many people, including the Montana chapter of the National Organization for Women.

A petition seeking Baugh's resignation was circulated, and an Aug. 29 protest drew hundreds of people to the Yellowstone County Courthouse lawn. Crews from "Good Morning America," CNN and Fox News were there.

Two days after the sentencing, Baugh issued an apology for his comments, calling them "just stupid and wrong."

Rambold entered into a deferred prosecution agreement in 2010 with the Yellowstone County Attorney's Office when the girl's death caused problems for prosecutors. Under the agreement, the charges would be dismissed if Rambold completed a sex offender treatment program and complied with other conditions. The case was revived last December, when prosecutors learned that Rambold had been terminated from the sex offender treatment program.

Baugh said he was not convinced that the reasons for Rambold's termination from treatment were serious enough to warrant the lengthy prison term suggested by the prosecution.

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