Stacey Dean Rambold, the former Montana teacher convicted of raping a 14-year-old female student who later committed suicide, was released from prison on Thursday after serving his 30-day sentence. Facing a public outcry over the lenient sentence, Judge G. Todd Baugh had reversed his stance on the case in early September, announcing that he intended to resentence Rambold.
According to the Ohio-based news service Ideastream, the Montana Department of Corrections updated its website just before 12:00 p.m. on Thursday to indicate that Rambold’s status had been changed to “sentence expired,” meaning that he had been released from custody.
The Associated Press reported that Rambold left the Montana State Prison in Deer Lodge and was expected to return home to Billings, Mt., where the rape occurred. Linda Moodry, a spokeswoman for the prison, said that Rambold is currently classified as a level 1 sex offender, a status that means authorities consider him at a low risk to re-offend. Unless his current sentence is overruled, he will remain on probation until 2028.
Rambold, now 54, was convicted of raping Cherice Morales in 2007 and charged with three felony counts of sexual intercourse without consent. Then, in February of 2010, just weeks before her 17th birthday -- while the case against Rambold was still pending -- Morales committed suicide.
Morales’ death sparked outrage in her hometown of Billings, but that was nothing compared to the uproar that Baugh incited when he sentenced Rambold to only 30 days in prison, remarking in court that Morales had been “as much in control of the situation” as Rambold, who was 49 at the time of the rape, explaining that she had seemed “older than her chronological age.”
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Judge Baugh later apologized repeatedly for those comments, issuing a formal apology to the Billings Gazette saying he was “not sure just what I was attempting to say, but it did not come out correct,” and admitting that his remarks had been "demeaning of all women." He also told reporters that his remarks were “stupid and wrong.”
Baugh also reversed his position on the case, saying that upon reconsideration, it appeared that a two-year prison sentence for Rambold was mandatory, the Associated Press reported. However, both the defense and prosecution responded that Baugh’s decision had come too late, and that the case would need to go through the appeals process.
Protesters have continued to agitate for Baugh's resignation, gathering outside the courthouse many days in September with signs like “Resign” and “Justice 4 Cherice” and creating a petition requesting the judge's resignation on the website MoveOn.org. As of Sept. 26, the petition had amassed over 58,000 signatures.
Morales’ mother, Auliea Hanlon, said justice has not been served. "I figured [Rambold] would be fired, go to jail, and [my daughter] would be vindicated, and that would be the end of it," Hanlon told the AP on Wednesday. "Instead, here it is six years later, still going on, and he's getting out ... He's still skating."