Consent laws seem to evade even those who are pretty high up in our legal system. How else do you explain one Montana judge seriously saying that a 14-year-old rape victim was ”older than her chronological age” so being sexually assaulted by a teacher doesn’t warrant a decent sentence? #MindBlown. He has since recanted after protests called for his resignation.
Associated Press reports that District Judge G. Todd Baugh made these victim-blamey comments in Billings, Montana when handing over a 15-year sentence to Stacey Rambold, a former Billings Senior High School teacher. Rambold was charged in 2008 with three counts of sexual intercourse without consent “after authorities alleged he had an ongoing sexual relationship” with 14-year-old Cherice Moralez. The age of consent under state law is 16 years old. Judge Baugh reportedly then backtracked and suspended the sentence to a mere 31 days with one day already served:
The sentencing came after Rambold, 54, had left a sexual offender treatment program that was part of a deal to have his prosecution deferred. The judge said he wasn’t convinced that the reasons for Rambold’s move were serious enough to warrant the 10-year prison term recommended by prosecutors.
The rather light sentencing and completely nonsensical logic about the victim somehow being “older” than her mere 14 years triggered protests, as well as a petition calling for Baugh’s resignation with a over 12,000 signatures.
Baugh reportedly wrote a letter to the editor of The Billings Gazette, described as “brief,” apologizing:
“I’m not sure just what I was attempting to say but it did not come out correct,” he wrote. “What I said is demeaning of all women, not what I believe and irrelevant to the sentencing. My apologies to all my fellow citizens.”
“I will add an addendum to the court file to hopefully better explain the sentence,” he added.
The victim committed suicide at just 16 in 2010, reportedly while her case was pending. Auleia Hanlon, her mother, is calling it like she sees it, telling the same paper:
“She wasn’t even old enough to get a driver’s license. But Judge Baugh, who never met our daughter, justified the paltry sentence saying she was older than her chronological age,” Hanlon said. “I guess somehow it makes a rape more acceptable if you blame the victim, even if she was only 14.”
Scott Twito, Yellowstone County Attorney, will not appeal Baugh’s decision, despite that he does not agree with it:
“The judge’s reasons are his reasons and his reasons alone. He has broad authority under state law, given the proper criteria.”
Despite Baugh’s apology, a protest is reportedly scheduled for Thursday outside Yellowstone County Courthouse. As well there should be.