Saturday, September 7, 2013
Stacey Rambold (54), a former teacher at Billings Senior High School in Billings, Montana was charged in October, 2008 with three counts of statutory rape with a 14-year-old girl. In plain English, a 54-year-old male teacher was accused of having sexual intercourse three times with a 14-year-old female student.
Consent was not a defense, due to her age.
The girl committed suicide in February, 2010, while the case was pending.
In July 2010, prosecution of the defendant was deferred (postponed) for a period of three years on condition that he admit to one count, enter into and satisfactorily complete a sex-offender treatment program, and not have any unsupervised contact with minor children. He agreed to those conditions.
Deferred prosecution for first offenders has been around since the 70s. Most states have statutes that permit prosecutors to defer prosecuting a defendant who admits that he has such a serious alcohol, drug or mental illness that he will likely reoffend in the future without treatment and he agrees to enter and satisfactorily complete a residential treatment and aftercare program that can cure the illness. To be accepted for deferred prosecution, a defendant must have been evaluated by a suitably credentialed expert who diagnoses the alcohol, drug or mental condition that caused the offense(s) charged and finds the defendant amenable to treatment. Violent sex offenders and pedophiles are usually not amenable to treatment
The purpose of a deferred prosecution program is to use the pending prosecution as a threat or stick to motivate a defendant to enter a treatment program and the promise of dismissing the case without a conviction as a reward or carrot to motivate the defendant to satisfactorily complete the program. If all goes well, the offender benefits from getting well in the program and the public benefits if he does not reoffend.
The deferred prosecution did not work in Mr. Rambold’s case. He had unsupervised contact with members of his family who were minors and he was terminated from the program.
The prosecution activated the case in December, 2012 and scheduled Rambold’s case for sentencing, rather than a trial, since he had admitted to one of the three counts in order to enter the deferred prosecution program. The statute requires the admission as a condition to enter the deferred prosecution program so that defendants cannot gain a potential tactical advantage by using a failed deferred prosecution to delay a trial for a couple of years. This is a legitimate concern since witnesses forget, move without leaving a forwarding address or die as happened in this case.
Judge G. Todd Baugh sentenced Rambold to 15 years in prison. However, he suspended all but 31 days of that sentence. With credit for one day previously served, the sentence totaled 30 days in jail.
According to local Billings Gazette, Judge Baugh said,
the victim was “older than her chronological age” and had “as much control of the situation” as the teacher.
Judge Baugh has a set of beliefs about girls, women and sex that might require a lifetime to untangle. His belief that he could impose such a ridiculously low sentence and justify it by blaming the victim, who subsequently committed suicide, absolutely takes the breath away.
Moreover, he failed to see the overriding issue in the case, which is abuse of trust. Rambold abused a relationship of trust between student and teacher and that factor by itself merited a lengthy prison sentence.
Rambold’s violation of the no-unsupervised-contact-with-minors condition of his deferred prosecution and his termination from the program are also troubling because they indicate a man who was minimizing his misconduct and not taking his obligations seriously.
Judge Baugh attempted to rectify the sentence, but the Montana State Supreme Court refused to let him do it by a vote of 4-3.
The ruling was correct, as a matter of law, because sentences cannot be changed after they have been imposed.
For all of these reasons, Judge Baugh is unfit to be a judge.
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Fred and Crane