A Montana judge who said a teenage rape victim appeared “older than her chronological age” is currently facing public censure, as well as suspension, nearly two years after the underage girl’s suicide. Judge G. Todd Baugh, who presided over both the sexual assault charge as well as the defendant’s violation of the conditions of his release last year, has been sentenced to a 31-day suspension without pay due to misconduct.
The case of the student-teacher relationship was made public in 2013. After his alleged involvement in a sexual liaison with a 14-year-old student, accused rapist Stacey Dean Rambold was charged with three counts of sexual intercourse without consent.
The victim tragically took her own life before the case went to trial in 2013. In the absence of a victim, the prosecution struck a deal with the defense and the presiding Judge Baugh. Three charges of sexual intercourse without consent against Rambold were dismissed, with the contingency that he complete a treatment program for sex offenders, comply with certain standards and procedures, and spend 30 days in jail.
Montana justice G. Todd Baugh (the 72-year-old son of former Washington Redskins quarterback “Slingin’ Sammy” Baugh) made the controversial decision to sentence 54-year-old Rambold to a very minimal 30 days in prison after the former teacher from Billings pled guilty to engaging in sexual intercourse without consent with the minor under his care (Cherice Morales). In addition, Rambold was ordered by Judge Baugh to serve an extensive probation term.
Beyond the comments made during Rambold’s sentencing in August that insinuated a certain culpability of the victim for the crimes perpetrated onto her, Judge Baugh also claimed the victim was “probably as much in control of the situation as was the defendant,” according to the Montana attorney general’s office. In addition, at the hearing concerning Rambold’s violations in the terms of the agreement made between he and the prosecutors, Baugh added that he considered Rambold’s offenses on probation to be “more technical and not the kind you would send someone to prison for.”
Since that time, prosecutors have appealed the decision that sent Rambold to prison for only 30 days in 2013. Astonishingly, Judge Baugh admits to having misinterpreted Montana statues incorrectly sentencing a rapist–a crime punishable in Montana law for a minimum of two years–to merely a fraction of the penal time recommended by law. Neither the prosecution nor the defense caught or corrected this error at the time of sentencing in August, although a hearing was held in September to attempt to reverse the decision, as well as to defend the judge’s leniency by rationalizing that the crime “wasn’t this forcible, beat-up rape.”
This appeal, which occurred in April 2014, also called for the case to be re-sentenced by a new judge. The Supreme Court is presently upholding Judge Baugh’s illegal sentence until the case can be reviewed under a new justice.
Public outcry has been consistent since the judge’s poorly chosen words became public. While Baugh has apologized a number of times for his poor choice of words, the judge appeared before the court July 1 for a public censure hearing. Despite calls for his resignation, as well as comments from fellow justices expressing concerns that his conduct has eroded confidence in the court system after the young victim’s rape hearing, Baugh does not intend to resign his post, and had no comment after his suspension sentence was read to the court.
Admonishing Judge Baugh’s defamatory statements regarding the 14-year-old victim, Chief Justice Mike McGrath wrote, “There is no place in the Montana judiciary for perpetuating the stereotype that women and girls are responsible for sexual crimes committed against them.”
Baugh had consented to censure, although not to suspension. The censure order, handed down June 4, allowed Baugh 15 days to withdraw his consent, an act that would return the issue to the judicial commission for formal proceedings. The district justice was sentenced July 23 to a 30-day suspension and received censure from Chief Justice Mike McGrath. A new date for sentencing has been set for Rambold, as well, who will stand before district Judge Randal Spaulding on September 26. Rambold’s previous sentence was vacated in April on the grounds that it was illegal.
Judge Baugh’s term ends in December of 2014. While he was up for reelection, and has run unopposed for over two decades, He plans to retire when his term expires at the end of this year. He claims that his decision to retire is unrelated to the events surrounding the Rambold-Morales case. For now, the Montana judge has been suspended for 31 days from the bench, and has been censured from both the public and his judicial peers two years following the rape victim’s suicide.
By Mariah Beckman