Mont. Judge Apologizes for Teen Rape Remarks

By Aditi Mukherji, JD on August 29, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

A Montana judge has apologized for remarks he made about a 14-year-old rape victim who committed suicide. But he's not sorry about the 30-day jail sentence he handed down to the convicted rapist, an ex-high school teacher.

Yellowstone County Judge G. Todd Baugh sentenced Stacey Dean Rambold, 54, to 15 years in prison, with all but 31 days suspended. He also gave Rambold credit for one day served, so his jail time is down to 30 days.

That's right, Baugh is sending someone who allegedly drove a young victim to suicide to jail for one month. Not surprisingly, the sentence has sparked outrage -- and comments the judge made about the victim only made matters worse.

Baugh's Victim-Shaming Comments

Judge Baugh pushed back against calls for a heftier punishment by making controversial references to the victim's age and how she "controlled" what happened. Baugh's comments drew a firestorm of criticism.

Specifically, Baugh stated that the 14-year-old victim was "older than her chronological age" and was "as much in control of the situation" as her then-49-year-old rapist, according to the The Billings Gazette.

The Montana chapter of the National Organization for Women has started a petition calling for the judge to resign.

When Sorry Isn't Good Enough

Judge Baugh apologized for his comments, but remained resolute that the victim was a troubled youth who was effectively older than her age when it came to sexual matters, reports the Gazette. Yet he clarified that didn't make Rambold's sex with the victim any less of a crime.

Critics are concerned the judge's comments made light of a teacher who used his position of power to pursue an "ongoing relationship" with a troubled 14-year-old, when the teacher was 35 years her senior.

But can misogynistic victim-shaming comment be grounds to force out a judge? Quite possibly.

A judge is ethically bound to promote confidence in the Judiciary and to protect the prestige of the judicial office.

When a judge engages in victim-shaming with a gender-discriminatory undertone, he arguably erodes the appearance of impartiality. At the very least, Baugh's apparent "old boys' club"-type bias may be grounds for an ethical review.

But in all likelihood, Baugh will fade from the limelight, and he'll stay on the bench with his arcane personal views in tow. The county prosecutor told the Gazette he's reviewing Baugh's decision to see if there's any way it can be appealed.

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