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Outraged Montanans move to oust judge who jailed rapist for 30 days

- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 29, 2013

Montana residents are fuming and on a campaign to oust a state judge who ruled that a teacher who raped a 14-year-old girl — who subsequently killed herself — deserves only 30 days behind bars.

What made the sentence more shocking to many was District Judge Todd Baugh's remarks in court: He said that even though the girl, Cherice "Cherry" Morales, was decades younger than her attacker, Stacey Dean Rambold, 54, and obviously troubled, taped police interviews showed she was "as much in control of the situation" as Rambold. The judge also said the girl was "older than her chronological age."

Morales, in the lead-up to the court sentencing hearing — and just days before she would have turned 17 — committed suicide. Her mother, in court, asserted the rape played into her suicide and yelled at Judge Baugh, "You suck!" after he handed down the 30 days.

"Obviously, a 14-year-old can't consent. I think that people have in mind that this was some violent, forcible, horrible rape," Judge Baugh told the Billings Gazette on Tuesday. "It was horrible enough as it is just given her age, but it wasn't this forcible beat-up rape."

Judge Baugh has since expressed regret for his comments. On Wednesday, the Gazette reported that he said: "I don't know what I was thinking or trying to say. It was just stupid and wrong." He added: "What I said is demeaning of all women, not what I believe and irrelevant to the sentencing. My apologies to all my fellow citizens."

But he's facing re-election in 2014, and state residents are pushing to oust him, The Daily Mail reported. So far, he's running unopposed, and if he wins, it'll be his sixth term. He has served on the bench since 1986.

Meanwhile, Montanans have been sending protesters to his courthouse in Billings. The Montana National Organization for Women also has asked the state to step in and force a longer jail sentence for Rambold.

Rambold also lost his teaching certificate, job, home and wife during his rape arrest and trial, The Daily Mail reported.

• Jessica Chasmar contributed to this article.

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