A one-month’s rape sentence handed down to an ex-high school teacher accused of raping a 14-year old student in his care has been overturned. On Wednesday, the Montana Supreme Court cited District Judge G. Todd Baugh of Billings, who said the rape victim bore some responsibility for the rape.
When the original judgement was delivered in August 2013, Baugh had said the victim was “older than her chronological age” and “as much in control of the situation” as the teacher. That judgement upset a lot of people, and brought hundreds out in protest on the streets of Billings; this led to over 56,000 people signing an online petition calling for the judge’s resignation.
In a letter last week to the editor of the Billings Gazette, Judge Baugh apologized for his comments, admitting they were out of place. Jennifer Long, the Director of AEquita, The Prosecutors’ Resource on Violence Against Women, in Washington, said about the case:
“Adolescent victims are consistently blamed for either seducing their rapist or for some other behaviors. To educate their own community and beyond about the importance of not victim-blaming. But it seems that we are still stuck in this cycle … where [some of] the very people who should know this information – judges, prosecutors, and other professionals – still believe in the myths and still engage in very dangerous practices.”
To make this particular case a whole lot worse, the victim of the rape, Cherice Morales who was 14 at the time, killed herself at the age of 16 with the case still pending. The teacher, Stacy Dean Rambold, has been free since last fall having completed his one-month rape sentence.
Prosecutors for the state contend that Rambold should serve a mandatory minimum of four years prison for the rape, even though his attorneys argued that the original one-month rape sentence was “appropriate.”