The Montana high court has ordered public reprimand and a suspension for violations of judicial ethics by the judge who said a 14-year-old rape victim was “in control” and “older than her chronological age.”
“There is no place in the Montana judiciary for perpetuating the stereotype that women and girls are responsible for sexual crimes committed against them,” the Montana Supreme Court concluded, holding that Judge G. Todd Baugh violated ethics rules.
Last year, Judge G. Todd Baugh sentenced former teacher Stacey Dean Rambold to just 31 days in jail, suspending the remainder of what would have been a 15-year prison sentence, for raping his 14-year-old student. This sentence was later overturned. But the controversy didn’t end there. Baugh explained his sentence by saying that the victim was a “youth that was probably as much in control of the situation as [Rambold], one that was seemingly, though troubled, older than her chronological age.” Baugh explained his sentence to the press by saying, “[i]t was horrible enough as it is just given her age, but it wasn’t this forcible beat-up rape.” The girl’s family said emotional distress from the crime led her to commit suicide. After more than 30,000 people called for his resignation, later apologized for the comments as well as the sentence.
The Montana Supreme Court noted in its ruling Wednesday that Baugh not only made inappropriate public comments but also issued an unlawful sentence. Baugh had consented to judicial ethics violations and agreed to public censure. But the court held that he should also be subject to a 31-day suspension for his violations.
“Judge Baugh’s comments in open court in this case disregarded longstanding Montana law that a person under the age of 16 is legally incapable of consenting to sexual intercourse,” the majority held, over the dissent of one justice.
In a separate case months later, Baugh sentenced a man convicted of punching his girlfriend to write “boys don’t hit girls” 5,000 times. And in an Alabama case that also generated national attention, a judge sentenced a man to probation and no jail time for raping a teen.
Baugh has 15 days to appeal the suspension and/or withdraw his earlier consent to censure, after which the punishment will go into effect. After public outcry, Baugh announced he does not plan to run for re-election when his term ends in December.