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Court Blocks Judge In Resentencing Of Former Teacher Who Raped Student

10:28 PM, Sep 6, 2013   |    comments
  • Stacey Rambold stands in the courtroom in Billings, Mont., during sentencing by Judge G. Todd Baugh.(Photo: Paul Ruhter, Billings (Mont.) Gazette)
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BILLINGS, MT-- Montana's Supreme Court on Friday ordered a county judge to cancel a hearing to reconsider the 30-day prison sentence he gave a former high school teacher convicted of raping a 14-year-old student with whom he had a sexual relationship for several months.

In granting the emergency order sought by the state attorney general, four justices ruled that Yellowstone County District Court Judge G. Todd Baugh lacked the authority to reconsider his original Aug. 26 sentence for Stacey Rambold, a business-and-technology teacher in Billings.

Baugh said shortly after the appellate action that he had already decided Thursday to cancel the Friday hearing. But he added that he had imposed, in writing, a new, 15-year prison sentence against Rambold, with all but two years suspended. He declared it the mandatory minimum required under state law, The Billings Gazette reported.

Baugh said the case will proceed through the formal appeal process.

He was vilified for his original 30-day sentence and for saying the victim, Cherice Moralez, was "older than her chronological age" and that she was "as much in control of the situation" as Rambold. He was originally charged in 2008, and she killed herself in 2010 before the case went to trial.

Her mother, Auliea Hanlon, stormed out of court, saying afterward, "I guess somehow it makes a rape more acceptable if you blame the victim, even if she was only 14."

Baugh apologized for his remarks but defended the sentence. Tuesday, he then announced that the sentence may be "illegal" and scheduled a hearing Friday afternoon.

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Baugh originally sentenced Rambold to 15 years in prison but suspended all but 31 days; he was credited for one day served. Prosecutors had sought a 20-year sentence with 10 years suspended, but they did not initially object to the 30-day term. They later argued that sentencing guidelines called for a minimum of two years in prison but said only an appeal could reverse the original term.

Rambold's attorney called the original sentence appropriate and agreed that it could be undone only on appeal.

Rambold began a sexual relationship with Cherice in 2007 and was charged the following year. Because she was the primary witness, her suicide just before the trial complicated the case.

In what is called a deferred prosecution, Rambold avoided trial by being sent to a sex-offender treatment program for two years. Last year, however, he violated the agreement by not telling authorities he was having a sexual relationship with a woman and for unauthorized visits with children of family members. That led to Baugh's original sentence.

The judge said he believed Rambold, who had no prior record, was at a low risk to re-offend because of his participation in the treatment program. He later compared Rambold's transgressions to parole violations.

But court documents revealed that as early as 2004 Rambold "was warned to stay away from young girls in his class."

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