Montana state prosecutors are supporting the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the negligible sentence for a former high school teacher who was found guilty of raping a student who was only 14 at the time of the incident.
Stacey Rambold, the former teacher who was convicted of rape received a 15 year sentence. However, the presiding judge suspended all but 31 days of that sentence and awarded a one day credit for time served. Yellowstone County Attorney Scott Twito went on record with the opinion that state law sentencing guidelines mandate a minimum two year sentence for the rape conviction.
District Judge G. Todd Baugh who originally heard the case used the same statutes and sentencing guidelines to determine the initial sentence which required Rambold to remain on probation until 2028 and register as a convicted sex-offender for an indefinite period of time.
The discrepancy between the interpretation of the law resulted in widespread criticism and outrage of the sentence that was handed down to the former teacher. The deferred prosecution agreement provided minimal jail time for the teacher provided he complete a treatment plan for sex offenders. Rambold was kicked out of the program and sentenced by sympathetic Baugh. After a brief protest, the case was turned over to the Supreme Court and a new sentence to be executed by a new judge was ordered.
Outrage over the original sentence was fueled in large part because of comments Judge Baugh made during the proceedings. He stated that the victim, Cherice Moralez was “older than her chronological age” and that she was at least in part responsible for the situation because she had some control over events that unfolded.
The family members, friends, and surrounding community rallied the Supreme Court in honor of Moralez, who committed suicide before the 2010 trial, to take action against Baugh for the insensitive comments and light sentence. State Supreme Court Justices confirmed a disciplinary complaint has been filed by the Judicial Standards Commission and will be properly addressed.