September 26, 2013

Ex-Montana teacher freed after 30-day term for raping teen

State prosecutors are appealing the sentence, saying Stacey Rambold, 54, should have received a minimum of two years.

By Matthew Brown / The Associated Press

BILLINGS, Mont. — Montana prison officials released a former high school teacher Thursday after he completed a 30-day sentence for rape that is under review by the state's high court and has prompted critics to call for the removal of the judge who oversaw the case.

click image to enlarge

Stacey Rambold stands in a courtroom after sentencing by Judge G. Todd Baugh in Billings, Mont., in this Aug. 26, 2013, photo. Another Montana judge has ordered a new sentencing hearing for the former teacher who received just 30 days in prison for raping a student who later killed herself.

AP

Stacey Rambold, 54, left the Montana State Prison in Deer Lodge after serving the term handed down by District Judge G. Todd Baugh of Billings for the 2007 rape of 14-year-old Cherice Moralez.

The judge drew outrage last month over the leniency of the sentence and comments he made that appeared to pin some of the blame on Moralez.

State prosecutors are appealing the sentence, saying Rambold should have received a minimum of two years. But barring new offenses, the former teacher will stay out of prison pending the appeal.

Rambold must register as a sex offender and will remain on probation through 2028 unless the original sentence is overruled, state officials said.

Moralez's mother, Auliea Hanlon, said Rambold's release shows he is "still skating" justice six years after he assaulted her daughter.

Tears streamed down Hanlon's face as she described the emotions that have at times overwhelmed her since a church counselor in whom Moralez confided first told Hanlon about the rape. Moralez committed suicide in 2010 before Rambold went to trial.

"I figured he'd be fired, go to jail, and she would be vindicated, and that would be the end of it," Hanlon said Wednesday. "Instead, here it is six years later, still going on, and he's getting out ... He's still skating."

Rambold's attorney, Jay Lansing, declined to comment on the defendant's release. Several friends and family members of Rambold also declined to comment.

In court documents and during the sentencing hearing, Lansing described his client as a one-time offender with no prior record who took responsibility for his actions when he admitted to a single count of rape under a 2010 deferred prosecution agreement that was made after Moralez killed herself.

Hanlon has said Rambold's actions were a "major factor" in the girl's suicide.

The agreement with prosecutors allowed Rambold to remain free for more than three years, until he was kicked out of a sex offender treatment program for unauthorized visits with relatives' children and for not disclosing that he was in a sexual relationship with a Washington woman.

When Rambold came back before the court in August, Baugh appeared to show sympathy for the defendant and agreed with Lansing's recommendation that Rambold receive a 15-year sentence with all but one month suspended.

Baugh also made comments pinning some of the responsibility in the case on Moralez, whom the judge described as "older than her chronological age."

The comments sparked outrage among many women's groups, victim's rights advocates and others, saying the judge was blaming the victim, who had not reached Montana's age of consent, which is 16.

Prosecutors said Baugh's lenient sentence was not allowed under a state law that requires Rambold to serve a mandatory minimum of two years in prison.

A formal complaint to have Baugh removed from the bench for alleged bias is pending before the state Judicial Standards Commission.

Hanlon said her focus remains on Rambold and the appeal of his sentence, which prosecutors said could take six to 18 months to work its way through the Montana Supreme Court.

For years, Hanlon said she carried around a photograph of her daughter's rapist, so she would recognize him if they ever crossed paths. With his return to Billings, Hanlon said she likely would walk away if she encountered him now.

"I considered going down to the jail to forgive him, but I don't know," she said. "I'm still waiting for a sign from God."

Were you interviewed for this story? If so, please fill out our accuracy form

Send question/comment to the editors




Further Discussion

Here at PressHerald.com we value our readers and are committed to growing our community by encouraging you to add to the discussion. To ensure conscientious dialogue we have implemented a strict no-bullying policy. To participate, you must follow our Terms of Use.

Questions about the article? Add them below and we’ll try to answer them or do a follow-up post as soon as we can. Technical problems? Email them to us with an exact description of the problem. Make sure to include:
  • Type of computer or mobile device your are using
  • Exact operating system and browser you are viewing the site on (TIP: You can easily determine your operating system here.)