Montana Supreme Court Overturns a 1-Month Prison Sentence for Rape
Billings, Montana – The state Supreme Court disagreed with District Court Judge G. Todd Baugh who sentenced Stacey Dean Rambold to a prison term of one month for the rape of a student of his. Rambold’s exact age isn’t known, but he was said to be in his late 40s at the time of the rape. The victim was 14-year-old Cherice Morales, but she did not survive the judicial process. The lengthy court battle to bring the rape allegation to trial and the scrutiny it brought to her proved to be too much. She took her own life at age 16.
Despite her own suicide, Judge Baugh declared that she bore a shared culpability in the sexual engagements she and her adult instructor engaged in. He stated that her maturity level exceeded her 14-years of what he termed were her “chronological years”. In fact, he put her sexual maturity level at par with her instructor. In short, he partially blamed the victim and in doing so gave the former instructor a lenient sentence. It is not clear if race played a role in the decision. Either way, a one month sentence for rape provoked a backlash. Citizens started a signature drive to have the justice recalled which has drawn 56,000 signatures plus an open letter of apology from the justice in the Billings Gazette.
For his part, Baugh already served out his sentence last year and has been free. However, the Supreme Court has demanded that he be resentenced by a different justice. At the very least, it appears that he will face a 4-year prison stint as that is the minimum his crime can receive. However wrong the judge’s original sentence was, this raises questions about whether a person can be convicted, sentenced, serve the sentence, and then re-sentenced afterwards.