Judge Todd Baugh is under fire for comments made during the sentencing of a man who admitted to raping a 14-year-old girl. The judge has issued an apology, but outrage continues to grow over the judge's comments, which many believe blame the victim for the rape.
"I don't know what I was thinking or trying to say," Baugh told the Billings Gazette. "It was just stupid and wrong. What I said is demeaning of all women, not what I believe and irrelevant to the sentencing. My apologies to all my fellow citizens."
The controversy began when Baugh sentenced Stacey Dean Rambold, who pleaded guilty to the rape charge, to 30 days in jail after he broke an agreement to enter sexual-offender treatment and not associate with children. Rambold broke the agreement by spending time with teenage relatives and not telling authorities. The 30-day sentence seemed unfair in light of the fact that the victim killed herself just days before turning 17.
"I think what people are seeing is a sentence for rape of 30 days. Obviously on the face of it, if you look at it that way, it's crazy," Baugh added. "No wonder people are upset. I'd be upset, too, if that happened."
Baugh called the victim, Cherice Moralez, "older than her chronological age" and "as much in control of the situation" as her 49-year-old teacher. "I think that people have in mind that this was some violent, forcible, horrible rape. It wasn't this forcible beat-up rape."
Those comments have led to major action in the Billings, Montana community. Moralez's parents have spoken out about the situation and members of the community have called for an investigation into whether Rambold, who is now 54, can be sentenced to a longer term and are asking people to step up and run against Baugh to get him off the bench. He is currently running unopposed for the position.
"Something is not right with our system when a judge can make that kind of decision," Marian Bradley of the Montana National Organization for Women told the Gazette. "Unless we show our outrage, none of our children are safe and no one will think of us. I think the judge needs to be reviewed and he needs to be sanctioned."