(BILLINGS, Mont.) — A Montana judge said he regrets controversial comments he made when he sentenced a former teacher to only 30 days in jail for raping a 14-year-girl who later committed suicide.
District Judge G. Todd Baugh has been the subject of widespread backlash after he said in a Billings, Mont., court that the victim was “older than her chronological age” and that she had “as much control of the situation” as the teacher, according to the Billings Gazette.
“I don’t know what I was thinking or trying to say,” Baugh later told the Billings Gazette. “It was just stupid and wrong.”
Though he voiced regret for his choice of words, he stood by the 30-day jail sentence.
Stacey Rambold, 54, a former teacher at Billings Senior High School, was sentenced Monday to 15 years in prison with all but 31 days suspended, and received credit for one day served.
“We respect the judge, but we vehemently disagree with his sentencing decision,” Yellowstone County Attorney Scott Twito told ABC News Wednesday.
“I sent one of my best deputies, who’s my chief deputy, down there to fight this out and unfortunately the judge did not agree with our recommendation, which included substantial prison time,” Twito said.
He said that there are “limited avenues to explore” in terms of appealing the sentence.
The sentence has drawn anger from the public, especially online. A Thursday protest against the judge has been organized and a MoveOn.org petition calling for the judge’s resignation has nearly 10,000 signatures Wednesday.
Baugh could not be reached for comment, but initially stood by his courtroom statements in comments made to the Billings Gazette.
“Obviously, a 14-year-old can’t consent. I think that people have in mind that this was some violent, forcible, horrible rape,” Baugh told the newspaper. “It was horrible enough as it is just given her age, but it wasn’t this forcible beat-up rape.”
Later, though, he expressed regret in a letter to the editor to the paper, the Gazette reported, in which he wrote he was “not sure just what I was attempting to say, but it did not come out correct.”
“What I said is demeaning of all women, not what I believe and irrelevant to the sentencing,” Baugh wrote. “My apologies to all my fellow citizens.”
Rambold was charged in October 2008 with three counts of sexual intercourse without consent after he was accused of having a sexual relationship with Cherice Moralez, who was 14 at the time, according to court documents.
She committed suicide in February 2010 while the case was pending, which complicated the case.
“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 told the Billings Gazette. “No wonder people are upset. I’d be upset, too, if that happened.”
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