Court Denies Judge a Do-Over On 30-Day Rape Sentence

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Sept. 6 2013 4:39 PM

Court Denies Montana Judge a Do-Over On 30-Day Rape 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

Montana Judge G. Todd Baugh can't do anything right.

First, he sentenced a former teacher to 30 days in prison for having sex with a troubled 14-year-old student (who would later commit suicide while the case was pending). During sentencing, Baugh absurdly described the victim as "older than her chronological age" and "as much in control of the situation" as her rapist was. In the face of the local and national backlash that followed, Baugh initially defended his comments before ultimately relenting and offering something of an apology, while still standing behind the sentence itself. Then on Tuesday, as the calls for his resignation continued, Baugh went ahead and scheduled a hearing to revisit that remarkably light sentence and determine whether it was actually even legal.

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That brings us to this afternoon, when the Montana Supreme Court added to Baugh's ongoing professional misery by blocking the judge's attempt at a do-over. "We conclude that the stated intent of the District Court to alter the initially imposed oral sentence in today's scheduled hearing is unlawful and that the proceeding should be arrested," the high court ruled. "We take no position on the legality of the imposed sentence and will address the parties' arguments in that regard on appeal."

Highlighting just how unpopular Baugh's decisions have been lately, neither the prosecution nor the defense wanted Friday's scheduled re-sentencing hearing to take place. The defense, as you would guess, is quite pleased with the 30-day sentence, while the prosecution feared that revisiting the sentence now would undermine its formal appeal, which is currently winding its way through the state court system.

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This post has been updated.

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City.