A judge in Yellowstone County, Mont., dealt a final insult to the family of a 14-year-old high school girl who killed herself after being repeatedly raped by her then 49-year-old teacher when the judge let the teacher, Stacey Rambold, off with a 30 day jail sentence.
Judge G. Todd Baugh’s reasoning behind the wrist-slapping sentence? The girl, Cherice Morales, was “as much in control of the situation” as Rambold. Though Rambold was 35 years older, the judge described the teenager as, "older than her chronological age."
The mother of the deceased teen, Auliea Hanlon, earlier testified that the rapes were “a major factor” in her daughter’s suicide. She pleaded with Baugh to send Rambold to prison for a lengthy term.
Prosecutors asked for a 20-year term with 10 years suspended. But Baugh was unmoved. He sentenced Rambold to 15 years, then suspended all but 31 days of the sentence — giving Rambold credit for one day already served.
Rambold (pictured) was arrested in 2008. In 2010 with his case still pending, Morales committed suicide. With the loss of their chief witness, prosecutors agreed to dismiss the charges against Rambold if he admitted to one count of rape and completed a lengthy sex-offender treatment program.
Rambold, who had been warned earlier by his school district supervisors to avoid being alone with underage girls, was booted from the program when it was discovered that he was having contact with minors. Rambold’s failure to finish the program led to prosecutors revisiting the charges against him. But Baugh said he did not agree with the decision to prosecute.
When the light sentence was announced, Hanlon shouted. “You people suck!” and immediately left the courtroom.
Morales has been described as a troubled teen who was targeted by Rambold who coaxed her into a continuing sexual relationship.
Rambold’s attorney, Jay Lansing, told the judge that his client had suffered enough, losing his job, home and marriage, as well as being branded with the “scarlet letter of the Internet” resulting from his repeated rapes of the 14-year-old girl.
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Morales’ family earlier received a $91,000 settlement from the school district in a wrongful death lawsuit stemming from the case.