After Montana high school teacher Stacey Dean Rambold raped a 14-year-old student in 2007, he was sentenced to one month in jail.
On Wednesday, Montana’s state Department of Justice appealed the sentence, unanimously ruling that the original sentence was too short.
Under state sentencing laws, Rambold must now serve a minimum of two years in prison.
The justices’ decision to assign Rambold to a new judge for re-sentencing was based, in part, on sentencing judge G. Todd Baugh’s inflammatory comments and suggestion that the victim shared the responsibility for her rape.
During the August sentencing, Baugh stated that the teenager was “probably as much in control of the situation as the defendant” and that the victim, Cherice Moralez, “was older than her chronological age.” The judge later apologized for his statements.
Prosecutors at last year’s sentencing sought a 20-year prison term for Rambold with 10 years suspended.
The sentence that Baugh handed down was considerably milder: Rambold was sentenced to 15 years in prison, of which all but 31 days were suspended. Upon his release, Rambold was required to register as a sex offender, and to remain on probation through 2028.
The 47-year-old business teacher fulfilled his sentence last fall; he is expected to remain free until he is scheduled for his state District Court appearance.
The victim, one of Rambold’s Billing Senior High School students, killed herself in 2010 while the teacher was awaiting trial.
Montana’s state law stipulates that children under the age of 16 cannot consent to sexual intercourse.
Rambold’s attorneys maintained that the original sentence was appropriate. They suggested that the girl bore some responsibility for the crime, and referenced interviews with the girl that had been recorded before she committed suicide.
Baugh, whose attempt to retroactively revise his sentence was unsuccessful, said that Rambold’s case is likely to be reassigned to a new judge next week.
The Montana Judicial Standards Commission filed a complaint against Baugh after his highly controversial sentence. The complaint is now pending with the state Supreme Court. Justice Michael Wheat wrote that Baugh’s “statements reflected an improper basis for his decision and cast serious doubt on the appearance of justice.”