Montana Supreme Court to Censure Judge Who Blamed Teen Victim for Her Rape

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Montana Supreme Court to Censure Judge Who Blamed Teen Victim for Her Rape

Jessica Mason Pieklo

The Montana Supreme Court said "there is no place in the Montana judiciary" for comments made by Judge G. Todd Baugh about a 14-year-old rape victim, among them that she appeared "older than her chronological age."

On Wednesday, the Montana Supreme Court announced it will publicly censure a judge who said a 14-year-old rape victim appeared “older than her chronological age.” The judge sentenced the former teacher who admitted attacking her to a mere 30 days in jail.

Judge G. Todd Baugh of Billings drew international condemnation after the comments, which were made in the case of Stacey Dean Rambold. Rambold, a former Billings Senior High School teacher, admitted to raping his former student, who later committed suicide. Baugh originally sentenced Rambold to 15 years in prison, with all but 31 days suspended. With credit for one day previously served, that meant that Rambold was ordered to serve only 30 days in jail. In explaining his sentencing decision, Judge Baugh reasoned that the victim was complicit and partially to blame for the assault, saying at the hearing that the girl was “as much in control of the situation” as Rambold.

Baugh later apologized for his remarks and tried to amend his sentence. But the Montana Supreme Court intervened, and in April ordered a new sentencing hearing in the case and assigned the matter to a different judge. On Tuesday, the state supreme court denied a request from Rambold’s attorneys for a new hearing. His attorneys had argued that the one month Rambold had already served in a Montana state prison was sufficient. Rambold, now a registered sex offender, has been free since last fall after serving that sentence and was to remain on probation through 2028.

The order by the state supreme court places Baugh on a 31-day suspension without pay and orders him to appear before the court July 1 for the public censure. “There is no place in the Montana judiciary for perpetuating the stereotype that women and girls are responsible for sexual crimes committed against them,” Chief Justice Mike McGrath wrote. The justices also criticized Baugh for handing down an illegal sentence that violated sentencing guidelines.

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Baugh has said he plans to retire at the end of his term in December.