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Rambold sentenced to 10 years in prison for raping student who later committed suicide

Rambold sentenced to 10 years in prison for raping student who later committed suicide

Judge Randal Spaulding has sentenced Stacey Dean Rambold to 15 years in prison with five years suspended for the rape of his 14-year-old student Cherice Moralez in 2007.

Moralez committed suicide in 2010 while charges against Rambold were pending.

Spaulding sentenced Rambold after a 90-minute hearing which included testimony from the victim's mother and father and Rambold's probation and parole officer.

Spaulding said the victim’s age, Rambold’s position as a teacher and Rambold's response to being warned by school officials all factored into his sentencing. Rambold's Internet usage was an aggravating factor, he said.

However, Spaulding said, Rambold didn’t force himself on his victim and has completed sex offender treatment.

Rambold will get credit for time served.

Rambold made made a statement Friday apologizing for his actions.

County Attorney Scott Twito said that legally Rambold should get credit for 31 days in prison and the probation he has already done. Twito recommended a sentence of 20 years prison, with 10 years suspended.

"We all made a mistake," Twito said. He asked the judge not factor any of the victim's conduct or statements in issuing a sentence.

Twito said Rambold broke through boundaries and abused his position as a teacher to have an illegal sexual relationship with a student.

Twito moved to strike from the record a portion of Rambold's psychosexual evaluation that he said bashes the victim.

"Cherice Moralez' (conduct) had nothing to do with this," Twito said.

Rambold got an "incredible break" in this case when Moralez, Rambold's victim, killed herself, Twito said.

Jay Lansing, Rambold's attorney, recommended Rambold be sentenced to DOC for 15 years with all but two years suspended. This recommendation provides "provides significant consequences," Lansing said.

Lansing argued that a sentence beyond the mandatory minimum would violate Rambold's right to due process. Lansing said it would also be double jeopardy because Rambold has already been sentenced to the statutory minimum, which was incorrectly calculated the first time around.

He said there is no law preventing a judge from considering a victim's conduct and that the victim's conduct has never been used as a defense for Rambold's actions.

Lansing said Rambold has a form of punishment that will never stop, because "all you have to do is Google Rambold."

Auliea Hanlon, the mother of Moralez, cried as she read a statement to the courtroom.

"Stacey Rambold's actions were definitely a factor in her decision to take her life," Hanlon said.

"If you have a daughter, go home and hug her because I can't hug my daughter no more," she said.

Hanlon asked Judge Randal Spaulding to sentence Rambold to prison.

John Moralez, the victim's father, also spoke very briefly.

"I wish this on nobody," he said of his loss. "My daughter is not with us."

"I can't stand up here and hate the man. I just don't think 30 days is enough," Moralez said in response to questioning from Twito. "I just want justice to be done."

Michelle Downey was the first to testify. She is a state probation and parole officer who supervises 55 sex offenders, including Rambold.

When questioned by Twito, Downey said Rambold should "absolutely" be put back into sex offender treatment.

She started using monitoring software on Rambold's cellphone and computer after he sent "flirtatious" text messages. She has monitored his Internet use since November 2013.

Downey said that Rambold uninstalled the monitoring software, Covenant Eyes, on Friday at 11:42 a.m.

He has had two Internet-use violations since then, Downey said.

According to Downey, Rambold was apparently searching for "massage parlor" services.

Twito described Rambold as a "boundary pusher." He said that Rambold's Internet usage shows he's still pushing boundaries.

Rambold completed sex offender treatment in July. He is registered as a Level 1 sex offender.

The case is Billings’ most widely scrutinized criminal proceeding in years.

Thirteen months ago, then-presiding Judge G. Todd Baugh sentenced Rambold to 15 years with all but 31 days suspended for one count of sexual intercourse without consent.

At sentencing, the judge commented that 14-year-old Moralez was “older than her chronological age” and “as much in control of the situation” as her abuser.

Baugh’s comments and the 31-day commitment drew nationwide attention to the case.

Prosecutors appealed the matter to the Montana Supreme Court, which kicked the case back to Yellowstone County District Court for re-sentencing by a judge other than Baugh.

Multiple judges declined to hear the case before Spaulding, of Roundup, agreed to re-sentence Rambold.

The case against Rambold started in 2008 when prosecutors charged him with three counts of sexual intercourse without consent for his ongoing sexual relationship with Moralez from October to December of 2007. She was a student in a class taught by Rambold at Billings Senior High.

Moralez killed herself on Feb. 6, 2010, while the case was pending. She was 16. Her family sued Rambold and School District 2, leading to an October 2012 settlement for $91,000.

The Montana Supreme Court publicly censured Baugh for his comments about Moralez and suspended him for one month.

Baugh has publicly apologized for his comments and plans to retire at the end of the year.



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City news reporter for the Billings Gazette

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