Ex-judge’s award renews outrage over rape case
Local bar association honors Montana jurist who gave a rapist a 30-day sentence.
A former Montana judge who said a 14-year-old rape victim was partly responsible for a teacher’s attack on her will receive a lifetime achievement award from his local bar association.
Former Montana District Judge G. Todd Baugh was chosen for the award by the board of directors of the Yellowstone Area Bar Assn.
“While we recognize that Judge Baugh made a very public mistake … we feel his more than 30 years of service to our community and our profession is worthy of recognition,” the association said Friday in a prepared statement.
The board added that it would “have no further comment at this time.”
Baugh sparked nationwide outrage in 2013 when he handed down a 30-day sentence to a former high school teacher convicted of raping the teenager, who killed herself just before her 17th birthday while the case was pending.
When he imposed the sentence, Baugh commented in court that the girl was “older than her chronological age” and “as much in control of the situation” as Stacey Dean Rambold, the teacher who was convicted on one count of sexual intercourse without consent.
As news of the award spread this week, anger against the judge and the judicial system was reignited — along with astonishment.
“It is breaking open all the old wounds,” said Marian Bradley, past president of Montana’s National Organization for Women chapter. “People are hurt — outraged.
“My huge concern is that victims of sexual assault do not report in the numbers we know sexual assault happens,” said Bradley, who is currently NOW’s northwest regional director. “If you have a judge who is this bad, and if you have a bar association who does this, where does this leave a victim?”
Baugh sentenced Rambold, who was 54 at the time, to 15 years in prison, but suspended all but 31 days and gave Rambold credit for one day served. The penalty violated the state’s mandatory minimum sentence of two years.
Prosecutors had asked for 20 years in prison, with 10 years suspended.
In comments to reporters later, Baugh downplayed the crime, describing it as “horrible enough as it is given her age, but it wasn’t this forcible beat-up rape.”
Under Montana state law, minors under the age of 16 cannot consent to sex.
After an uproar over the sentence and Baugh’s comments, the Montana Supreme Court ordered another judge to resentence Rambold. He received a 10-year prison term.
The state Supreme Court also reprimanded Baugh in 2014 for his conduct, saying in court filings that he had “eroded public confidence in the judiciary and created an appearance of impropriety.” He was censured and suspended for 31 days.
The judge, 73, retired in December after nearly 30 years on the bench.
G. TODD BAUGH, a former Montana district judge, will receive a lifetime achievement award.