News of the former Billings schoolteacher who received a 31-day sentence after admitting to raping a 14-year-old student has traveled far and fast. Media outlets, including CNN, USA Today, and the Huffington Post (to name a few), have all picked up the issue since the Billings Gazette broke its story on Tuesday. The rapist, 54-year-old Stacey Rambold, failed to meet the terms of a deferred prosecution agreement requiring him to complete a three-year sex offender treatment program, among other conditions. Rambold violated the terms of this agreement and appeared before Yellowstone County District Court Judge G. Todd Baugh for a sentencing hearing on Monday.
Judge Baugh has suffered public criticism as a result of the sentencing ruling, particularly in regard to the statements he made during the hearing. Judge Baugh stated that the 14-year-old victim was “older than chronological age” and “in as much control as Rambold”.
At the time of writing, a MoveOn.org petition requesting Judge Baugh resign from his position lists 30,022 digital signatures. That number rises by the second. A Facebook page called “Impeach Judge G. Todd Baugh” boasts 1082 “likes”. 600 people have RSVP’d for the upcoming protest on the event page for “Stand with the Victim – A Protest Against Judge Baugh”.
Billings resident Sheena Rice organized the protest after learning of Judge Baugh’s remarks during the Rambold hearing. “When I heard that this girl was basically asking for it, that she was ‘older than her chronological age’, that she was just as much in control of the situation, it sounded like he was saying that to me.” Rice, a victim of sexual assault, wants to “get to a place where we’re not blaming the victim and we’re talking about what the actual issue is: the rapist.”
Judge Baugh’s post will be up for re-election in 2014. If he is re-elected, he would serve his sixth consecutive term. NOISE & COLOR was fortunate enough to sit down with the judge Tuesday morning. Judge Baugh’s first words on the subject were those of unsolicited apology and remorse: “I didn’t get much sleep last night. Aside from having to apologize to the entire female population, we all say stupid stuff. I obviously said what I said on Monday, but I don’t know what I was trying to say. What I said was dumb.” He said he sent a letter of apology to the Billings Gazette that morning. Throughout the discussion, Baugh remained stalwart in his efforts to apologize and self-deprecate, referring to his remarks during the sentencing hearing as “dumb,” “stupid,” and “idiotic” multiple times. At one point, he said, “I apologize for my ineptness.”
However regretful his comments, the judge stands by his Monday decision to sentence Rambold to 31 days of imprisonment, the remaining term of his fifteen year sentence being suspended. Rambold will also have to register as a sex offender. Judge Baugh made substantial effort to explain what he considers to be a point of confusion about the case. According to Judge Baugh, the purpose of Monday’s hearing was simply to sentence Rambold for violating the terms of his prosecution agreement, not to sentence Rambold for the original crime (sexual intercourse without consent). In the face of controversy, this distinction is the basis for his continued self-justification.
For many, an apology is not enough. Public outcry has not subsided; it has only grown. National news outlets are expected to cover the protest this afternoon.
“Even with the apology, those words were part of the sentence and some of the job of the justice system should be about protecting those who are hurt,” Rice said. “I really feel that this girl did not receive justice. If Judge Baugh’s defense is that the hearing was just about violating the deal, then why did he even talk about her? This doesn’t need to be vigilante justice but I think we need to hold our elected officials to a higher standard. When they do something that really goes against what they’re supposed to be doing, they should step down.”
When asked to comment on the protest that will occur on the courthouse lawn, Judge Baugh responded, “If that’s based on my stupid comments, I totally agree with [the protestors]. They were stupid comments. If it’s based on what I think I see as a sentencing on what I totally see as a rape, it’s their right to complain and protest. If I was in their position, I’d probably join in.”
written by Pete Tolton