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Stacey Dean Rambold: Court tosses ex-teacher's one-month rape sentence

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Stacey Dean Rambold, a former Montana teacher who raped a student, will be back in court to face a resentencing trial. Last fall, the 54-year-old Rambold was sentenced to 15 years in prison, but all but 31 days of that sentence were “suspended,” and with one day previously served, Rambold spent a total of one month in jail for his 2008 rape. Rambold’s victim – 14-year old Cherice Moralez – took her life before the case was even brought to trial.

According to a report from Reuters today, as carried by Yahoo! news, the 30-day penalty was harshly criticized by many as being far too lenient. Sharp objections swiftly came and many called for Montana District Judge G. Todd Baugh to resign following his commuting of the rapist’s sentence. Baugh also lobbed remarks at the victim’s family that many considered unduly harsh and insensitive.

Cherice Morales was only 14 years old at the time of the rape; she took her own life in 2010. Cherice’s family, from Billings, Mont., were haunted by the calloused words of the man they sought justice from. Prosecutors had asked for Rambold to serve 10 to 20 years for his statutory rape of Morales, but Judge Baugh handed down the 30-day term.

During the sentencing hearing, Baugh said Cherice looked “older than her chronological age” and suggested she was “as much in control of the situation” as her attacker. His words sparked outrage in the small community. Rambold allegedly had "questionable" actions on his record even before he was hired at the Billings school in 2004. Allegations existed that Rambold had previously touched a girl inappropriately.

Rambold was charged with three counts of sexual intercourse without consent. Judge Baugh later tried to apologize for his remarks (though not the joke of a sentence), and retracted his statement that the minor could be consenting. Under Montana state law, minors under the age of 16 cannot legally consent to a sexual act. Judge Baugh said his words were “stupid and wrong.” The Montana Supreme Court ruled that the case will now be assigned to a different judge for resentencing. “The district court lacked authority to suspend all but 31 days of Rambold's sentence, and its judgment is therefore reversed,” Justice Michael Wheat said in the court's opinion.

Fox News carried a report from The Associated Press that stated Rambold has been free since completing his 30-day sentence last year. Prosecutors say that in the upcoming resentencing, they will be looking for a minimum jail term of at least four years. Attorneys for Rambold are of course arguing that their client served his time under an “appropriate” sentence.

According to Fox News, 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.”

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