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An appeal to one of the most shocking sentencing decisions ever seen is just another step in the long, drawn-out pursuit of justice for a young 14 year-old girl. Montana District Judge G. Todd Baugh has faced an onslaught of criticism based on the 30-day sentence he handed down and his insensitive comments towards rape-victim Cherice Moralez.
After an apology for the comments Baugh made a hearing last month, Baugh has also set a hearing with the intention of amending the sentence. This gesture, though, seems to be as empty as his apology since, according to Montana Attorney General Tim Fox, Baugh lacks the authority to revise the sentence under state statutes that permit only the defendant or the state to appeal a sentence they believe is illegal. The appeal on behalf of the state will be based on the grounds that the minimum prison sentence defendant Stacey Rambold could have received is two years, a far cry from what the loved ones of Moralez got.
The 14-year-old was raped in 2007 in the home of her former Billings public school instructor Stacey Rambold. Moralez then committed suicide in 2010 a few weeks shy of her 17th birthday. After the young woman took her own life, prosecutors settled for a “deferred prosecution agreement.” All charges were to be dismissed if Rambold underwent sex-offender treatment and followed various other requirements. Rambold violated his treatment orders, however, after having contact with nieces and nephews and failing to disclose relationships with certain women he was having. The case was reopened in Dec. 2012.
At the hearing, Judge Baugh ruled that while there were violations to the treatment orders, the infractions were not serious enough for major jail time. He then made the ruling: 15 years in prison. He then suspended all but 31 days of the sentence. Another day was also knocked off for time already served. In defense of the decision- the final sentencing being 30 days- Baugh remarked that the victim “seemed older than her chronological age.” He continued and said that a 14-year-old girl was “probably as much in control of the situation.”
Feminist protests have exploded in response to Baugh’s actions, saying that the judge’s decision further discouraged sexual abuse victims to come forward and diminished their faith in justice. Groups like the Montana chapter of the National Organization for Women have demanded Baugh’s resignation.
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