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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.

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