Stacey Rambold was a Montana teacher convicted of raping his 14-year-old student, a girl who would later take her life, but his light jail sentence for the crime is drawing nationwide outrage.
A judge in Billings ruled that the man only had to serve 30 days in jail for failing to meet treatment requirements, saying the young victim was “as much in control of the situation” as the teacher who raped her.
The sentence has sparked outrage across the nation, with protests scheduled and a petition to disbar District Judge G. Todd Baugh.
The rape case started in 2008, when the student’s mother said Stacey Rambold began “grooming” the girl for a sexual relationship. Their relationship was eventually discovered, and Rambold resigned from his school.
By law, children younger than 16 are unable to consent to sexual intercourse, so Rambold should have been charged with felony rape. But he was instead charged with three counts of sexual intercourse without consent.
“It’s not probably the kind of rape most people think about,” Baugh said. “It was not a violent, forcible, beat-the-victim rape, like you see in the movies. But it was nonetheless a rape. It was a troubled young girl, and he was a teacher. And this should not have occurred.”
Baugh said the victim was “older than her chronological age,” and prosecutors drew up a deferred prosecution agreement with Rambold. Under the agreement, Stacey would have his charges dismissed if he completed a sex offender treatment program that required him to cut all contact with children.
Rambold did not meet the terms of the agreement, coming into contact with some nieces and nephews in a family setting.
Stacey Rambold had a hearing Monday for his violation, and prosecutors had asked the judge to sentence him to 20 years in prison. The defense argued that Rambold had already suffered enough punishment after losing his career and his marriage and saw his reputation damaged through internet coverage of the case.
District Judge G. Todd Baugh seemed to buy the argument, sentencing Stacey Rambold to 15 years in prison but suspending all but 31 days of it
“He made some violations of his treatment program,” Baugh said. “They were more technical and not the kind you would send someone to prison for.”
The light sentence has generated a nationwide backlash. Marian Bradley of the Montana National Organization for Women said she is circulating a petition calling on the state to investigate the sentence.
“Something is not right with our system when a judge can make that kind of decision,” Bradley said. “Unless we show our outrage, none of our children are safe and no one will think of us. I think the judge needs to be reviewed and he needs to be sanctioned.”
Protesters have also gathered outside the courtroom, with some calling for Baugh to be kicked off the bench.
After the controversy, Baugh admitted that he should have chosen his words more carefully but said he stood by his decision in the Stacey Rambold case.