BILLINGS – The mother of a 14-year-old girl who was raped by her teacher and later committed suicide appeared at a raucous Thursday protest against the judge who sentenced the man to a month in jail and said the victim was “older than her chronological age.”
The protest came as prosecutors considered an appeal of the sentence by Montana District Judge G. Todd Baugh, whose actions in the case have drawn condemnation from across the country. Joining in the backlash was Montana’s governor, who said the judge’s comments “made me angry.”
The victim’s mother, Auliea Hanlon, said the judge was merely “covering his butt” when he apologized Wednesday for his comments. She criticized him for standing by the relatively light sentence given to former Billings Senior High School teacher Stacey Rambold, 54.
“He’s just covering his butt. He wouldn’t have said anything if people hadn’t spoken up,” Hanlon told an Associated Press reporter. “He didn’t reverse his decision, so it’s irrelevant.”
Hanlon’s daughter, Cherice Moralez, killed herself before Rambold’s case came to trial.
Billings Public Schools Superintendent Terry Bouck described Rambold’s actions with Moralez in 2007 as “repugnant.” He said the monthslong relationship between teacher and student was grossly inappropriate, and that he disagreed with the 30-day sentence.
A legal review of Monday’s sentencing suggests Rambold may have gotten off too easily.
That review determined that if Baugh had applied the proper section of state law, the defendant would have received a minimum of two years in prison, according to a memo sent by Yellowstone County Attorney Scott Twito to the appellate division of the state attorney general’s office.
Prosecutors had sought a 20-year sentence with 10 years suspended. Baugh ordered Rambold to serve 15 years, with all but 31 days suspended and a one day credit for time already served.
The state has 20 days to appeal the sentence. Twito said he’s working with the appellate division to decide whether to take that step.
“It will be looked at and reviewed carefully before any action or any decision is made,” Twito said.
Baugh has said he does not intend to resign, but “deserved to be chastised” for his comments about the victim.
The judge also said during Monday’s sentencing hearing that Moralez had as much control of the situation as Rambold.