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Ex-Montana teacher freed after 30-day term for rape

By Matthew Brown

Associated Press

POSTED:
LAST UPDATED: 10:08 a.m. HST, Sep 26, 2013


BILLINGS, Mont. >>  Montana prison officials released a former high school teacher today after he completed a 30-day sentence for rape that is under review by the state's high court and has prompted critics to call for the removal of the judge who oversaw the case.

Stacey Rambold, 54, left the Montana State Prison in Deer Lodge after serving the term handed down by District Judge G. Todd Baugh of Billings for the 2007 rape of 14-year-old Cherice Moralez.

The judge drew outrage last month over the sentence's leniency and comments he made that appeared to pin some of the blame on Moralez.

State prosecutors are appealing the sentence, saying Rambold should have received a minimum of two years. But barring new offenses, the former teacher has served his time and will stay out of prison pending the appeal.

Rambold was picked up at the prison by a family member and was expected to return to Billings, said prison spokeswoman Linda Moodry said. He's been registered as a level 1 sex offender -- meaning he's considered a low risk to re-offend-- and will remain on probation through 2028 unless the original sentence is overruled.

Moralez's mother, Auliea Hanlon, said Rambold's release shows he is "still skating" justice six years after he assaulted her daughter.

Tears streamed down Hanlon's face as she described the emotions that have at times overwhelmed her since a church counselor in whom Moralez confided first told Hanlon about the rape. Moralez committed suicide in 2010 before Rambold went to trial.

"I figured he'd be fired, go to jail, and she would be vindicated, and that would be the end of it," Hanlon said Wednesday. "Instead, here it is six years later, still going on, and he's getting out. ... He's still skating."

Rambold's attorney, Jay Lansing, declined to comment on the defendant's release. Several friends and family members of Rambold also declined to comment.

Under the terms of his release, Rambold must undergo treatment as a sex offender, is barred from unsupervised visits with anyone under the age of 18 and cannot return to teaching or take any other job that involves overseeing children.

He is required initially to report to his probation officer in Billings on a weekly basis. That's subject to change once a risk assessment is completed to determine what level of long-term supervision Rambold needs, said John Williams, regional supervisor for the Montana Bureau of Probation and Parole.

In court documents and during sentencing, Lansing described his client as a one-time offender with no prior record who took responsibility for his actions when he admitted to a single count of rape under a 2010 deferred prosecution agreement that was made after Moralez killed herself.

Hanlon has said Rambold's actions were a "major factor" in the girl's suicide.

The agreement with prosecutors allowed Rambold to remain free for more than three years, until he was kicked out of a sex offender treatment program for unauthorized visits with relatives' children and for not disclosing that he was in a sexual relationship with a Washington woman.

When Rambold came back before the court in August, Baugh appeared to show sympathy for the defendant and agreed with Lansing's recommendation that Rambold receive a 15-year sentence with all but one month suspended. Prosecutors had sought a 20-year term with 10 years suspended.

Baugh also made comments pinning some of the responsibility in the case on Moralez, whom the judge described as "older than her chronological age."

The comments sparked outrage among many women's groups, victim's rights advocates and others, saying the judge was blaming the victim, who had not reached Montana's age of consent, which is 16.

Prosecutors said Baugh's lenient sentence was not allowed under a state law that requires Rambold to serve a mandatory minimum of two years in prison.

A formal complaint to have Baugh removed from the bench for alleged bias is pending before the state Judicial Standards Commission.

Hanlon said her focus remains on Rambold and the appeal of his sentence, which prosecutors said could take six to 18 months to work its way through the Montana Supreme Court.

For years, Hanlon said she carried around a photograph of her daughter's rapist, so she would recognize him if they ever crossed paths. With his return to Billings, Hanlon said she likely would walk away if she encountered him now.

"I considered going down to the jail to forgive him, but I don't know," she said. "I'm still waiting for a sign from God."







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Slow wrote:
Montana is weeelly scary. Especially for 14 year old girls. 30 days? In cowboy country it's the girl's fault. Heck, she looked 16. Perfectly normal in cowboy country, a 54 year old stud and a 14 year old woman.
on September 26,2013 | 07:31AM
cojef wrote:
Am very surprised that our dear friend "Allie" has not posted any comments relating the the heinious crime committed by this teacher, and especially of the judge in the case, since she is presumed to have been born in this locality (Mandan country). Some people become feeble-minded at an early age and Judge Baugh is one of these species. It's time for him to resign while he still able.
on September 26,2013 | 08:23AM
Ulalei wrote:
30 day sentence for rape? outrageous. just another byproduct of teachers unions and top-heavy government bureaucracy.
on September 26,2013 | 08:42AM
poidragon wrote:
How is this a 'byproduct' of teachers unions and bloated government? This decision was offered by a judge on the judicial bench or can't you read a simple article? What this is, is a total travesty of justice and both the rapist and judge should be held accountable for their actions!
on September 26,2013 | 12:03PM
2NDC wrote:
Allie wouldn't dare post negative comments about the judge. After all, he's "family". :-(
on September 26,2013 | 09:42AM
sailfish1 wrote:
Judge Baugh is a disgrace to the profession and should be removed from his position and disbarred. There is no excuse for the gross injustice.
on September 26,2013 | 11:13AM
frontman wrote:
This judge must have served in Hawaii before he moved to Montana.
on September 26,2013 | 12:09PM
copperwire9 wrote:
What a useless comment.
on September 26,2013 | 12:31PM
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