Hundreds of demonstrators gathered in Billings, Mont., on Thursday to protest a local judge’s light sentence for a rapist whose teenage victim killed herself.
State District Judge G. Todd Baugh, 71, gained national notoriety this week after sentencing former high school teacher Stacey Dean Rambold, 54, to a month in prison for raping a 14-year-old student. The rest of Rambold’s 15-year sentence was suspended, which means he would serve his term outside of prison.
The crowd gathered Thursday to call for Baugh’s resignation as well as a review of the sentence after his comments that the teen was “older than her chronological age” and “as much in control of the situation” as her teacher was.
“We need to remove the judge from office, we need justice, and we need to move forward,” said Marian Bradley, state president of the Montana National Organization for Women, in an interview with the Los Angeles Times.
“Rape is rape is rape,” Bradley said. “She was 14 years old, and she was not an age where she could give consent, and he groomed her like any other pedophile.”
Bradley said the girl’s mother, Auliea Hanlon, attended the demonstration but did not speak. On Tuesday, Hanlon had issued a statement that said, “I don’t believe in justice anymore.”
“I guess somehow it makes a rape more acceptable if you blame the victim, even if she was only 14,” Hanlon said. Her daughter committed suicide in 2010 at age 16, and Rambold later pleaded guilty to one of three counts of sexual assault.
On Wednesday, Baugh apologized for his comments at the sentencing earlier in the week and told local media that he would further explain his rationale for the sentence in an additional filing in the case.
“Obviously, a 14-year-old can’t consent. I think that people have in mind that this was some violent, forcible, horrible rape,” Baugh said. “It was horrible enough as it is just given her age, but it wasn’t this forcible beat-up rape.”
Demonstration organizer Bradley said she had spoken with the local attorney’s office and the state attorney general’s office to review the case for possible challenge or appeal.
“I am so proud of our community,” Bradley said. “I’m proud of the people in this country, who stepped up and said, ‘This is not OK.’ We’re saying, ‘Not in our community, not in our town,’ and I think our country is saying, ‘Not in our country,’ and it gives me hope for things getting better.”
County Attorney Scott Twito told the Associated Press on Thursday that a legal review of the case suggests Rambold should have received at least two years in prison. Prosecutors originally sought a 20-year sentence with 10 years suspended, the AP reported.
Times staff writer Christine Mai-Duc contributed to this report.