Judge in one-month-for-rape case agrees to be censured
The Montana judge who said a 14-year-old rape victim appeared 'older than her chronological age' and sentenced her rapist to 31 days in prison has waived formal disciplinary proceedings and asked the state Supreme Court to decide his punishment.
BILLINGS, Mont. — A Montana judge who said a 14-year-old rape victim appeared older than her chronological age waived formal disciplinary proceedings Tuesday and asked the state Supreme Court to decide his punishment.
District Judge G. Todd Baugh said in response to a complaint from a judicial oversight panel that his comments and actions in the case appeared improper and had failed to promote public confidence in the courts.
The Judicial Standards Commission has been investigating Baugh's actions since last summer when his comments about a rape victim who had committed suicide sparked public outrage and drew calls for him to be removed from the bench.
In a complaint filed against the 72-year-old Billings judge this month, the commission faulted the one-month prison sentence that Baugh gave to convicted rapist Stacey Rambold as overly lenient.
An attorney for the five-member commission said Baugh had justified his actions by blaming the child victim.
Rambold, a former teacher at Billings Senior High School, has since been freed. An appeal of his sentence is pending after prosecutors said Rambold should have served a mandatory minimum of four years in jail.
In his Tuesday response to the commission's complaint, Baugh wrote that the allegations against him were "mostly true."
He added that he would "submit myself to the Montana Supreme Court for public reprimand and/or censure."
But Baugh took issue with the claim that his sentence was too lenient.
He pointed out that Rambold was convicted under a 2010 deferred prosecution agreement that originally allowed the defendant to go free after the victim's death. Rambold's trial was pending at the time but prosecutors decided not to proceed after losing their main witness.
The case was revived when Rambold violated the terms of his sex offender treatment program by failing to report a sexual relationship with an adult woman and having unsupervised visits with the children of relatives. He was sentenced last August to 15 years in prison with all but one month suspended.
"The defendant was still a low risk to reoffend, had not reoffended and was still treatable in the community," Baugh wrote in Tuesday's response. "In any sentence, it is possible that some see it as lenient while others may see it as harsh."
Rambold's attorney, Jay Lansing, has previously declined to speak publicly about the case and did not immediately respond to a telephone message requesting comment.
Baugh was first elected in 1984. He's announced he won't seek re-election when his current six-year term ends this year.
Marian Bradley with the Montana chapter of the National Organization for Women said Tuesday she hopes the Supreme Court will hold a public hearing on the case to put Baugh under the spotlight.
"We want to make sure he gets sanctioned in some fashion," Bradley said.