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Montana judge behind lenient rape sentence sparks new outrage (+video)

The Montana judge urged to resign after imposing a 30-day prison sentence for the rape of a 14-year-old planned a re-sentencing hearing for Friday afternoon, but it was blocked by the state supreme court.

By Staff writer / September 6, 2013

This undated photo shows District Judge G. Todd Baugh presiding at a hearing in Great Falls, Mont. Baugh has planned a resentencing hearing for Friday afternoon, saying his original 30-day prison sentence of teacher Stacey Rambold for raping a 14-year-old was incorrect.

Larry Mayer/Billings Gazette/AP

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[Updated Friday 3:40 EDT.]

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Staff writer

Stacy reports on education and other national news issues for the Monitor -- keeping an eye on everything from pre-K to college, politics, and social justice issues.

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A Montana judge has sparked outrage once again – this time for what attorneys on both sides say was an improper attempt to backtrack on a lenient rape sentence, one that led to pressure from around the world for the judge to resign.

District Judge G. Todd Baugh planned a resentencing hearing for Friday afternoon, saying his original 30-day prison sentence of teacher Stacey Rambold for raping a 14-year-old was incorrect and the case instead requires a minimum of two years. (Technically the sentence was for 15 years, suspended except for 31 days, with credit for one day served.)

The Montana Attorney General’s office sought to block the hearing, saying only the Montana Supreme Court has the authority to fix sentencing mistakes and the hearing would interfere with the appeal the office is filing. Defense attorney Jay Lansing agreed in a court briefing that a Friday hearing by Baugh would create confusion.

The high court on Friday afternoon blocked the hearing and ordered Judge Baugh to enter a written sentencing for Mr. Rambold. Baugh never signed a written sentencing order after making his oral pronouncement in the case.

When Baugh delivered the original sentence Aug. 26, he said the victim was “older than her chronological age” and “as much in control of the situation” as Rambold, who was in his late-40s at the time.

Baugh’s comments brought protesters out onto the streets in Billings by the hundreds and have led to more than 56,000 signatures online from people calling for his resignation.

Baugh apologized last week for his comments about the victim in a letter to the editor of the Billings Gazette.

His attempt to hold a hearing Friday may have been a way “to have a do-over, recognizing that he did something wrong … but I think the demand for him to resign was the correct demand,” says Sheena Rice, who helped plan the rally last week as a senior organizer at the Montana Organizing Project. At that rally people called not only for the judge to step down, but also for a legal review of his other rape trials and for education in the legal community about the damaging effects of victim-blaming language in rape cases.

While this case has drawn wide attention, it’s fairly typical for victim blaming and other “minimizing of sexual assault cases” to occur, particularly in situations that involve teachers and students or that don’t fit traditional notions about rape, says Jennifer Long, director of AEquitas: The Prosecutors’ Resource on Violence Against Women, in Washington. “Adolescent victims are consistently blamed for either seducing their rapist or for some other behaviors.”

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