The Montana Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered a public censure and subsequent suspension of a district court judge who made controversial comments about a 14-year-old rape victim during the sentencing of the girl’s rapist.
The court set July 1 as the date for Judge G. Todd Baugh’s public censure. His suspension will begin Dec. 1. Baugh’s term expires at the end of the year and he is not seeking re-election so the suspension will mark his early departure from the bench according to the Billings Gazette.
Chief Justice Mike McGrath wrote the opinion for the court. In it he said that Baugh had "eroded public confidence in the judiciary and created an appearance of impropriety, therefore violating the Montana Code of Judicial Conduct.”
Baugh drew public criticism last year when he sentenced a Billings high school teacher, 54-year-old Stacey Rambold, to 30 days in prison for the 2007 rape of one of his 14-year-old students.
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The victim later committed suicide.
During sentencing Baugh said that the girl appeared “older than her chronological age” and was “as much in control of the situation” as her teacher.
Baugh technically sentenced the teacher to serve 15 years in prison but suspended all but 31 days of that sentence and gave the man credit for one day of time served.
State prosecutors have asked that Rambold’s sentence be overturned and that he be sentenced to serve two years in prison for his crime.
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Baugh later admitted wrongdoing, according to Reuters. He waived formal proceedings and invited his own reprimand or censure from the state’s Supreme Court.
"My remarks ... were the proximate cause of the firestorm of criticism and, thus, in violation of" judicial conduct, Baugh wrote in legal documents he filed with the court.
The court agreed.
"There is no place in the Montana judiciary for perpetuating the stereotype that women and girls are responsible for sexual crimes committed against them," McGrath wrote.
Baugh will not be paid for his 31-day suspension. Because he only consented to reprimand or censure and not suspension he has until June 19 to withdraw his consent.
If he does that, the matter will be returned to the Judicial Standards Commission for a formal hearing. If he does not withdraw consent the disciplinary actions will be carried out as scheduled.