Ex-Montana judge to get bar association award despite censure over rape comments

Montana judge who was censured for blaming 14-year-old rape victim to get bar association award

A former Montana judge who said a 14-year-old rape victim was partly responsible for a teacher's attack on her will receive a lifetime achievement award from his local bar association.

Former Montana District Judge G. Todd Baugh was chosen for the award by the board of directors of the Yellowstone Area Bar Assn. based on his lengthy service to the people of the Treasure State, the group’s president said in an email Friday.

“This year, the YABA Board has chosen to highlight Judge Baugh’s past dedication to the Billings community and the legal profession,” said bar association President Jessica T. Fehr. “Judge Baugh was sworn in as an attorney in 1967 and took the bench in 1984.

“While we recognize that Judge Baugh made a very public mistake in the Rambold case,” Fehr continued, “as a Board, we feel his more than 30 years of service to our community and our profession is worthy of recognition.”

Baugh sparked nationwide outrage in 2013 when he handed down a 30-day sentence to a former high school teacher convicted of raping the teenager, who had killed herself while the case was pending, just before her 17th birthday.

When he imposed sentence, Baugh commented in court that the girl was “older than her chronological age” and “as much in control of the situation” as Stacey Dean Rambold, the teacher who was convicted on one count of sexual intercourse without consent.

As news of the bar association award spread this week, anger against the judge and the judicial system was reignited — along with astonishment.

“It’s breaking open all the old wounds,” said Marian Bradley, past president of Montana’s National Organization for Women chapter. “People are hurt, outraged.”

Bradley, who currently serves as NOW’s northwest regional director, said her main concern was the effect the award would have on rape victims.

“My huge concern is that victims of sexual assault do not report in the numbers we know sexual assault happens,” she said. “If you have a judge who is this bad, and if you have a bar association who does this, where does this leave a victim?”

Baugh sentenced Rambold, who was 54 at the time, to 15 years in prison, but suspended all but 31 days and gave him credit for one day served. Prosecutors had asked for 20 years in prison, with 10 years suspended. The penalty violated the state's mandatory minimum sentence of two years.

In comments to reporters later, Baugh downplayed the crime, describing it as “horrible enough as it is given her age, but it wasn’t this forcible beat-up rape.”

Under Montana state law, minors under the age of 16 cannot consent to sex.

After an uproar over the sentence and Baugh’s comments, the Montana Supreme Court ordered another judge to resentence Rambold. He received a 10-year prison term.

The state Supreme Court also publicly reprimanded Baugh in 2014 for his conduct, saying in court filings that he had “eroded public confidence in the judiciary and created an appearance of impropriety." Baugh was censured and suspended for 31 days.

The judge, 73, retired in December after nearly 30 years on the bench.

Twitter: @marialaganga 


Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times


April 24, 3:59 p.m.: This story has been updated with comments from the Yellowstone Area Bar Assn. and the Montana chapter of the National Organization for Women.

This story originally published on April 23 at 6:59 p.m.