Posted Aug 28, 2013 02:27 pm CDT
Updated: A Montana judge has sparked nationwide controversy for his comments while sentencing a former teacher to 30 days in jail for a sexual relationship with a Billings student that began when she was 14 years old.
Judge G. Todd Baugh sentenced former teacher Stacey Rambold, 54, on Monday after he pleaded guilty to a charge of rape and then failed to meet sex-offender treatment guidelines that would have kept him out of prison, the Billings Gazette reported in its story on the hearing.
Baugh said the victim, who committed suicide shortly before her 17th birthday, was a troubled youth who was “older than her chronological age.” He also said she was “as much in control of the situation” as the teacher.
The girl’s mother, Auliea Hanlon, left court screaming, “You people suck.” She told CNN that she blames the sexual relationship for her daughter’s suicide and “this sentence is a joke, a travesty.”
The judge’s remarks sparked outrage, but he stood by his comments on Tuesday, the Billings Gazette reports. “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, according to the Billings Gazette account. “It was horrible enough as it is just given her age, but it wasn’t this forcible beat-up rape.” Under Montana law, children under age 16 cannot consent to sexual intercourse.
Baugh told CNN, however, that his remarks on Monday were “not the best choice of words.” He still defended the sentence, saying he believes Rambold is “treatable” and a “low risk to re-offend.”
Then on Wednesday, Baugh issued an apology in a letter to the editor of the Billings Gazette. “What I said is demeaning of all women, not what I believe and irrelevant to the sentencing,” Baugh said. “My apologies to all my fellow citizens.” He also told the newspaper his remarks were “just stupid and wrong.”
Critics of Baugh’s remarks are planning a rally on Thursday. They have also launched a petition drive against the judge.
Updated on Aug. 29 to include Baugh’s apology.