News Law and Policy

Montana Judge Orders New Hearing in Sentencing of Teacher Who Raped 14-Year-Old Student

Jessica Mason Pieklo

After international condemnation, a Montana judge is reconsidering a 30-day sentence for a teacher who admitted raping one of his former students.

The Montana judge who sentenced a teacher to only 30 days for the rape of a former student has ordered a new hearing in the case.

In an order filed Tuesday, Yellowstone County District Court Judge G. Todd Baugh said that the sentence he imposed may be illegal because it departs from the mandatory minimum sentence for the crime. Stacey Dean Rambold, a former Billings Senior High teacher, admitted to raping a 14-year-old female student who later committed suicide. Rambold received a sentence of 15 years in prison, with all but 31 days suspended, and was given credit for one day previously served.

In explaining the first sentencing decision, Judge Baugh reasoned that the victim in the case was complicit and partially to blame for the assault. Baugh said at the hearing that the victim was “as much in control of the situation” as Rambold. He also described the girl as “older than her chronological age.” After sparking international outrage at his remarks and the sentence, the judge apologized for his comments two days later. Last week, an estimated 400 people gathered in downtown Billings to protest the sentence and Baugh’s statements.

In the order reconsidering the sentence, Baugh said that the mandatory minimum sentence Rambold should have received appeared to be two years, not 30 days. He explained that he imposed the first sentenced based on a memorandum submitted by the attorney for Rambold and that prosecutors failed to object or notify the court that the sentence violated mandatory minimum requirements. The court will hear arguments on re-sentencing Friday.

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