A Montana judge is expected to be disciplined by the state’s judiciary panel for sentencing an ex-teacher to only 30 days in prison for the rape a 14-year-old girl and declaring that the girl was partly to blame in her own rape.
Stacey Rambold, the perpetrator, admitted to the court that he had raped the victim numerous times in 2007 in his home, his car, and even at the school where he taught.
The victim’s disclosure surfaced in 2010, after her family noticed a change in her behavior, and she revealed the attacks to her church counselor, who informed the victim’s mother. The family went to the police, who quickly pursued the case, but sadly, the victim committed suicide shortly before the trial of her rapist began.
The family chose to continue forward with the trial and seek justice for their daughter. However, after a long and emotionally challenging trial, the judge, G. Todd Baugh issued a verdict that sparked a public outrage.
On September 26, 2013, Stacey Rambold received a sentence of 30 days in prison, despite the victim being two years under Montana’s age of consent at the time of the attacks. Judge Baugh also made comments pinning of the responsibility in the case on the victim, whom he described as “older than her chronological age.” He said she looked older than her years and, at 14, was “probably as much in control of the situation as was the defendant.”
The verdict received national media coverage with harsh criticisms for the judge, as well as the perpetrator. Rambold and his attorney declined to comment on his release. Judge Baugh publically apologized for making those comments but still defended his decision.
The Disciplinary Commission attorney who filed the complaint against the judge said the judge’s conduct warranted disciplinary action but she did not say in the complaint if she was seeking a reprimand or the judge’s ouster, according to Reuters.
The Disciplinary Commission has the option of holding its own hearing and making its own decision under its rules. The case, however, can be turned over to the justices on the Montana State Supreme Court with the commission’s recommendation for reprimand.
The justice process is a challenging process for any crime victim, let alone those who are victims of sexual violence.
According to the Justice Department, National Crime Victimization Survey: 2008-2012 The majority of sexual assaults are not reported to the police – an average of 60% of assaults in the last five years were not reported. Those rapists, of course, will never spend a day in prison.
Out of every 100 rapes – 40 get reported to the police – 10 lead to an arrest –8 get prosecuted – 4 lead to a felony conviction – and finally according to the Dept. of Justice 3 rapists will go to prison. Yes –that number is 3.
There is still much work to be done to eliminate victim blaming, especially when judges are the ones issuing the blame. We look to these respected members of our community to keep us safe by ensuring offenders are off the streets and punished for their crimes.
We should all be grateful that Judge Baugh is not a member of the Fifth Judicial District Court of Pennsylvania, here in Allegheny County.