BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A Montana judge apologized Wednesday for saying a 14-year-old rape victim was “older than her chronological age” and had as much control of the situation as the teacher who raped her — remarks that prompted protests and a petition for his resignation.
District Judge G. Todd Baugh made the comments Monday while sentencing former Billings Senior High School teacher Stacey Rambold to a 15-year prison sentence then suspending all but 31 days and giving him credit for one day already served.
Yellowstone County officials previously agreed to defer Rambold’s prosecution for three years and dismiss the charges if he completed a sexual offender treatment program. The case was revived in December after prosecutors learned Rambold, 54, was kicked out of the program for having unsupervised visits with minors who were family members and not telling counselors he was having a sexual relationship with a woman.
Defense attorney Jay Lansing said Rambold has continued his treatment with a different program and an evaluation found him at low risk to re-offend.
The judge said he wasn’t convinced that the reasons for Rambold’s exit from the program were serious enough to warrant the 10-year prison term recommended by prosecutors.
Faced with backlash over his comments and the sentence that protesters considered too light, Baugh wrote an apology in a brief letter to the editor to The Billings Gazette. The newspaper provided a copy of the apology to The Associated Press.
“I’m not sure just what I was attempting to say but it did not come out correct,” he wrote. “What I said is demeaning of all women, not what I believe and irrelevant to the sentencing. My apologies to all my fellow citizens.”
“I will add an addendum to the court file to hopefully better explain the sentence,” he added.
A protest scheduled for Thursday outside Yellowstone County Courthouse will go on despite the apology, said organizer Sheena Rice, stressing that it’s important for the community to show it is not going to stand for victim blaming.
“I’m glad he apologized, but he should have known better as a judge,” Rice said. “The fact that he said it makes me think he still believes it.”