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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News Law and Policy

Montana Judge Censured for Suggesting Teenage Rape Victim Partly to Blame for Attack

Jessica Mason Pieklo

The Montana Supreme Court publicly declared District Judge G. Todd Baugh guilty of misconduct in the case of a Billings teacher who admitted to raping a 14-year-old student.

A Montana judge who suggested that a 14-year-old rape victim was at least partially to blame for her attack and sentenced the teacher who admitted attacking her to only 30 days in jail received a public reprimand from the Montana Supreme Court Tuesday.

The Associated Press reports that Montana Supreme Court Chief Justice Mike McGrath delivered the censure to District Judge G. Todd Baugh of Billings, reading from a prepared censure statement. (A censure is a rarely used public declaration by the state’s highest court that a judge is guilty of misconduct.) “We have determined that, through your inappropriate comments, you have eroded public confidence in the judiciary and created an appearance of impropriety in violation of the Montana Code of Judicial Conduct,” McGrath said.

Baugh drew international condemnation after his comments and sentencing in the case of Stacey Dean Rambold. Rambold, a former Billings Senior High School teacher, admitted to raping his former student, who later committed suicide. Baugh originally sentenced Rambold to 15 years in prison, with all but 31 days suspended. With credit for one day previously served, that meant that Rambold was ordered to serve only 30 days in jail, a sentence that dramatically deviated from sentencing guidelines.

At the time he delivered Rambold’s sentence, Judge Baugh explained the unusual order by suggesting that because the victim “looked older than her chronological age,” she was complicit in the crime committed against her, saying at the hearing that the girl was “as much in control of the situation” as Rambold.

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Under Montana state law, children under 16 cannot consent to sex.

After protests and emergency filings by prosecutors in response to the sentencing deviation, Baugh apologized for his remarks and tried to amend his sentence. But the Montana Supreme Court intervened, and in April ordered a new sentencing hearing in the case, assigning the matter to a different judge. Rambold is now scheduled to be re-sentenced by District Judge Randal Spaulding on September 26.

In addition to the censure, the Montana Supreme Court also suspended Baugh for 31 days, effective in December. Baugh has said he plans to retire at the end of his term in December.

News Law and Policy

Montana Supreme Court to Censure Judge Who Blamed Teen Victim for Her Rape

Jessica Mason Pieklo

The Montana Supreme Court said "there is no place in the Montana judiciary" for comments made by Judge G. Todd Baugh about a 14-year-old rape victim, among them that she appeared "older than her chronological age."

On Wednesday, the Montana Supreme Court announced it will publicly censure a judge who said a 14-year-old rape victim appeared “older than her chronological age.” The judge sentenced the former teacher who admitted attacking her to a mere 30 days in jail.

Judge G. Todd Baugh of Billings drew international condemnation after the comments, which were made in the case of Stacey Dean Rambold. Rambold, a former Billings Senior High School teacher, admitted to raping his former student, who later committed suicide. Baugh originally sentenced Rambold to 15 years in prison, with all but 31 days suspended. With credit for one day previously served, that meant that Rambold was ordered to serve only 30 days in jail. In explaining his sentencing decision, Judge Baugh reasoned that the victim was complicit and partially to blame for the assault, saying at the hearing that the girl was “as much in control of the situation” as Rambold.

Baugh later apologized for his remarks and tried to amend his sentence. But the Montana Supreme Court intervened, and in April ordered a new sentencing hearing in the case and assigned the matter to a different judge. On Tuesday, the state supreme court denied a request from Rambold’s attorneys for a new hearing. His attorneys had argued that the one month Rambold had already served in a Montana state prison was sufficient. Rambold, now a registered sex offender, has been free since last fall after serving that sentence and was to remain on probation through 2028.

The order by the state supreme court places Baugh on a 31-day suspension without pay and orders him to appear before the court July 1 for the public censure. “There is no place in the Montana judiciary for perpetuating the stereotype that women and girls are responsible for sexual crimes committed against them,” Chief Justice Mike McGrath wrote. The justices also criticized Baugh for handing down an illegal sentence that violated sentencing guidelines.

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Baugh has said he plans to retire at the end of his term in December.