Hundreds protest against 31 day rape sentence

BILLINGS — Hundreds of demonstrators gathered yesterday outside the offices of a Montana judge to protest a one-month sentence he gave an ex-teacher convicted of raping a 14-year-old student who later killed herself and the judge’s remarks suggesting the victim was partly at fault.

District Judge G. Todd Baugh has come under harsh criticism since sentencing former Billings high school teacher Stacey Rambold on Monday to 15 years in prison, then suspending all but 31 days of that term, for the 2007 rape of Cherice Moralez. Rambold, 54, also received credit for one day served.

Before handing down the sentence Baugh said that Moralez, who committed suicide in 2010, was “probably as much in control of the situation” as Rambold and that the teen seemed older than her age.

The judge, who apologised for his remarks on Wednesday, made an appearance at the protest but did not speak, said Marian Bradley, president of the Montana chapter of National Organisation for Women and co-organiser of the rally. Auliea Hanlon, the dead girl’s mother, also attended the rally, which organisers said drew 500-700 people.

Kate Olp, co-organiser of the Billings protest and an online petition demanding that Baugh step down, said his comments may lead victims of sexual assault to avoid reporting it for fear of mistreatment by the legal system.

“He took the responsibility off the shoulders of an adult and placed it on the fragile shoulders of a child,” she said.

Demonstrators observed two minutes of silence for Moralez and her mother, Olp said. (Reuters)

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