Stacey Dean Rambold, a 54-year-old high school teacher, raped Cherice Moralez, his 14-year-old student.
Montana State District Court Judge, G. Todd Baugh, suspended all but 30 days of the rapist’s sentence.
Outrageous – yes, but it gets worse. In defending the 30-day sentence for the rape by a man who was in a position of trust to the child victim, Judge Baugh blamed the child, saying that:
- Cherice seemed “older than her chronological age”;
- Cherice was “as much in control of the situation” as her teacher;
- the circumstances of the rape made the sentence appropriate; and
- the rape “wasn’t this forcible beat-up rape,” that “people have in mind”.
No less than 58,000 petition signatories and several hundred protestors gathered outside the Yellowstone County Courthouse in Billings, Montana are demanding the removal or resignation of Judge Baugh. There appear to be grounds for removal. The Judge’s words and actions violate Montana’s correctional and sentencing policy contained in a book meant to sit on the desk of every Montana judge. That policy required Judge Baugh to “punish each offender commensurate with the nature and degree of harm caused by the offense and to hold an offender accountable.” Montana Judges’ Deskbook, Municipal, Justice, and City Courts, §400.902(a), revised 2003 (MCA 46-18-101). By every standard, the Judge failed his responsibility.
By fixing blame for a heinous crime on the child victim rather than the adult perpetrator, Judge Baugh did more than violate Montana’s court rules and statutes. He abdicated a judge’s seminal responsibility to protect the public, including Cherice, a child in desperate need of protecting. Montana Judges’ Deskbook, §400.902(b), (MCA 46-18-101). No defense or excuse can vindicate Judge Baugh. What he did and said was “victim shaming” at its worst and dangerous to our system of justice, a system that the Judge had sworn to uphold. He made it infinitely harder for children and others to come forward even when egregiously and personally harmed.
The Judge must go, if only to send a clear, unambiguous message that rape is not a crime of impunity. Unfortunately, that message will never afford any justice for Cherice who took her own young life while the case was pending. See, http://nyti.ms/16VypDp, http://slate.me/19qLkgV, http://huff.to/17ZQuTF, and http://bit.ly/1bn9xc2.