A Montana judge apologized on Wednesday for saying a 14-year-old rape victim who later killed herself was "as much in control of the situation" as her rapist, former teacher Stacey Rambold, but did not say sorry for the lenient 30-day sentence he gave Rambold on Monday.
"I don't know what I was thinking or trying to say," Judge G. Todd Baugh told the Billings Gazette Wednesday.
"It was just stupid and wrong."
Former teacher Rambold, 54, was charged in 2008 with three counts of sexual intercourse without consent after prosecutors claimed he targeted a student, then-14-year-old Cherice Moralez, and used his position of trust as a teacher to take advantage of her. He pleaded guilty to one count but the case was complicated by the girl's suicide just weeks before her 17th birthday in 2010.
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Rambold later struck a deferred prosecution deal and was ordered to complete a sex offender treatment program. In exchange, the rape charges would be dismissed. But the case was reignited when Rambold reportedly missed a few sessions and was terminated from the program, according to the Gazette.
Baugh ruled Monday that Rambold's termination from the treatment program did not warrant the 15-year sentence the prosecution was petitioning for. The judge claimed to have listened to recordings of Moralez from before her death and said that the victim was "older than her chronological age" and "as much in control of the situation" as Rambold.
Rambold would serve just 31 days of a suspended 15-year sentence, Baugh decided, giving him credit for one day already served.
The lenient sentence and Baugh's remarks drew national scrutiny from critics who claimed the judge was somehow saying rape was not that big of a deal.
"As I looked on in disbelief, Judge Baugh stated that our teenage daughter was as much in control of the situation as her teacher was," Auliea Hanlon, the victim's mother, wrote in a statement. "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. I guess somehow it makes a rape more acceptable if you blame the victim, even if she was only 14."
Baugh tried to explain himself Tuesday, but stood by his 30-day sentence decision.
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"What I said is demeaning of all women, not what I believe and irrelevant to the sentencing. My apologies to all my fellow citizens," he said. "Obviously, a 14-year-old can't consent. I think that people have in mind that this was some violent, forcible, horrible rape. It was horrible enough as it is, just given her age, but it wasn't this forcible beat-up rape.
"I think what people are seeing is a sentence for rape of 30 days. Obviously on the face of it, if you look at it that way, it's crazy," Baugh continued. "No wonder people are upset. I'd be upset, too, if that happened."
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