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