Saying the sentence he imposed on a former Billings teacher for the rape of a student may be illegal, Yellowstone County District Court Judge G. Todd Baugh has ordered a new hearing.
In an order filed Tuesday, Baugh set a hearing for Friday at 1:30 p.m. to determine whether the sentence he imposed last week on Stacey Dean Rambold should be revised.
Baugh said in the order that the mandatory minimum sentence Rambold should have received appears to be two years, not the 30-day sentence that Baugh ordered on Aug. 26.
“In this court’s opinion, imposing a sentence which suspends more than the mandatory minimum would be an illegal sentence,” Baugh said in the order.
Baugh said he imposed the 30-day prison sentence based on a memorandum submitted by the defense, and prosecutors “did not object or otherwise inform the Court on the issue of the applicable mandatory minimum.”
Yellowstone County Attorney Scott Twito called Baugh’s order an “unusual occurrence.”
Twito has been consulting with the Montana Attorney General’s Office to determine whether to appeal the case to the state Supreme Court.
“The state will review the issue and we will be prepared to be in court on Friday,” Twito said in response to the judge’s new order.
Rambold, a former Senior High teacher who admitted to raping a 14-year-old female student who later committed suicide, received a sentence of 15 years in prison, with all but 31 days suspended. He was given credit for one day previously served.
The sentence, and statements made by Baugh at the hearing last week, drew international attention and calls for Baugh’s resignation.
Baugh said at the hearing that the victim, Cherice Moralez, was “as much in control of the situation” as Rambold. He also described the girl as “older than her chronological age.”
The judge apologized for the remarks two days later. On Thursday, an estimated 400 people gathered in downtown Billings to protest the sentence and Baugh’s statements.
Rambold, 54, was transported to Montana State Prison in Deer Lodge last Thursday. He is expected to be returned to Billings for the hearing on Friday.
Rambold’s attorney, Jay Lansing, was out of his office Tuesday and could not immediately be reached for comment.
The judge gave the prosecution and defense until noon Friday to submit briefs.
Moralez’s mother, Auliea Hanlon, said through her attorney Tuesday that she remains grateful for the support she has recently received.
“Auliea continues to appreciate the support from the community and from folks all across the nation,” said the attorney, Shane Colton.
Colton said Hanlon will refrain from making any further comment until she has had a chance to meet with the County Attorney’s Office. It’s unclear, Colton said, if Hanlon will have the energy to attend the hearing Friday.
“Certainly, Auliea will want to try and attend, but it’s been a pretty overwhelming week already,” Colton said. “She’ll have to decide whether she can do that again.”
Kate Olp, one of the organizers of the protest last week who has started a website called “Justice4Cherice,” said Tuesday she was pleased to hear that Baugh has ordered a new sentencing hearing.
“Judge Baugh’s original decision in this case was clearly influenced by his personal misconceptions regarding rape and sexual abuse,” Olp said in an email statement to The Billings Gazette.
“While I’m not normally one to push for longer prison sentences, I feel that it is important in this case to ensure that the right decision was made,” Olp said.