Judge Admits Blaming a 14-Year-Old for Her Own Rape Was "Stupid"

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Aug. 29 2013 12:26 PM

Judge Admits Blaming a Teen for Her Own Rape Was "Stupid," but Stands By Teacher's Sentence

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A Montana judge sparked outrage when he said a 14-year-old was partly to blame for her own rape

Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

After sparking outrage and prompting calls for his own resignation, a Montana judge now says he's sorry for saying a 14-year-old was partly responsible for her own rape—but he says he still hasn't changed his mind on the remarkably light sentence he gave to the former teacher who raped her.

Jennifer Lai Jennifer Lai

Jennifer Lai is an associate editor at Slate.

Judge G. Todd Baugh found himself in the headlines this week after he sentenced former high school teacher Stacey Rambold, 54, to 30 days in jail after he pleaded guilty to raping student Cherice Moralez. As lenient as the sentence was, it was Baugh's apparent rationale for handing it out that sparked outrage and anger from victims advocates and the local community.

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During the sentencing, the judge reportedly said that Rambold was "just as much in control of the situation" as her rapist, and was "older than her chronological age." Despite the immediate outcry, Baugh at first stood by his remarks. The Billings Gazette with the details:

On Tuesday, Baugh stood by his comments that Moralez was a troubled youth who was older than her age when it came to sexual matters. That didn’t make Rambold’s sex with Moralez any less of a crime, he said. “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.”

That defense, as you'd expect, did little to quell the outrage and disgust from the community, and protesters and organizers continued to call for his resignation. On Wednesday, Baugh finally apologized for his choice of words in a letter to the Gazette, saying he was "not sure just what I was attempting to say, but it did not come out correct," and calling his remarks "stupid and wrong."

"What I said is demeaning of all women, not what I believe and irrelevant to the sentencing," Baugh wrote. "My apologies to all my fellow citizens." Baugh, however, still hasn't changed his mind on the sentencing. Instead, he is planning to write an addendum to the court file this week explaining his rationale.

Moralez killed herself in 2010 just a few days before her 17th birthday, while the case was still pending. Her mother told the court that the rape was a "major factor" in her suicide.

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