The Montana Supreme Court has overturned a one-month prison sentence given to a former high school teacher convicted of raping a 14-year-old student.
Wednesday's decision cited in part the actions of District Judge G. Todd Baugh of Billings, who suggested the young victim shared responsibility for her rape.
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 apologized last week for his comments about the victim in a letter to the editor of the Billings Gazette.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.”Members of the public have stepped up to protest in previous cases, such as the teen rapes in Steubenville, Ohio, and “to educate their own community and beyond about the importance of not victim-blaming,” Ms. Long says, “but it seems that we are still stuck in this cycle … where [some of] the very people who should know this information – judges, prosecutors, and other professionals – still believe in the myths and still engage in very dangerous practices.”
The rape victim, Cherice Morales was 14 at the time the assaults by Stacey Dean Rambold occurred. When she was 16 and the case was still pending, she killed herself.
Justices said a new judge must re-sentence Rambold.
Rambold has been free since completing his sentence last fall. Prosecutors for the state say he should serve a mandatory minimum of four years prison.
Rambold's attorneys had argued that the original sentence was appropriate.
A disciplinary complaint against Baugh from the Judicial Standards Commission is pending with the state Supreme Court. Justices say that will be dealt with separately.
The rape victim, Cherice Morales was 14 at the assaults occurred. When Cherice was 16 and the case was still pending, she killed herself.