A Montana District Judge continues to face impassioned calls for his resignation a day after he apologized for remarks he made about the teenage victim in a rape case he oversaw. Judge G. Todd Baugh penned an apologetic letter on Wednesday, saying that he “deserved to be chastised” for the “stupid remarks” he made in court about a 14-year-old girl who was raped by a high school teacher and later committed suicide.
According to the Los Angeles Times, protests ignited across the country on Monday, when Stacey Dean Rambold, 54, a former teacher convicted of raping 14-year-old student Cherice Morales at least three times, was ordered to spend 30 days in jail. Prosecutors had asked Baugh to sentence Rambold to 20 years in prison, with ten years suspended, but Baugh suspended all except 30 days.
Rambold's attorney argued that he had already lost everything, and borne the "scarlet letter of the Internet" as a result of his actions.
Rambold initially made an agreement with prosecutors to complete a three-year treatment program in exchange for dismissing the charges, but he was kicked out of the program after administrators reported that he had skipped mandatory meetings, had visits with minors of the books, and engaged with sex with a woman, the Daily News reported. An attorney representing Rambold told the publication that he is enrolled in a new treatment program.
Morales committed suicide in February of 2010, weeks before her 17th birthday, when the case was still pending. Baugh said in court that after listening to recorded statements she made before her suicide, he came to believe that she was a troubled young woman, but had been “as much in control of the situation” as Rambold, who was 49 at the time of the rape. Baugh added that he believed Morales had been “older than her chronological age,” a statement that has garnered intense criticism from residents of Morales’ hometown of Billings, Montana.
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The Missoulian reported that, “The judge's sentence was not received well by the girl's mother, who repeatedly screamed ‘You people suck!’ and stormed out of the courtroom.” Morales’ mother, Auliea Hanlon, told the court that the sexual relationship between Rambold and her daughter was a “major factor” in her suicide.
Hanlon issued a statement after the hearing saying that she “looked on in disbelief” as Baugh pronounced the sentence. "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 told the Gazette. "I guess somehow it makes a rape more acceptable if you blame the victim, even if she was only 14."
On Wednesday, Baugh issued an apology to the Billings Gazette, saying, that he was “"not sure just what I was attempting to say, but it did not come out correct."
"I don't know what I was thinking or trying to say. It was just stupid and wrong,” he added to reporters. Despite the apologetic words protestors have rallied to oust Baugh from his position amid news he plans to run unopposed for re-election. A petition on MoveOn.org to force his resignation had gathered 31,180 signatures as of Thursday.