District Judge G. Todd Baugh
(Photo: Larry Mayer, Billings (Mont.) Gazette)
(USA TODAY) -- A Montana judge on Tuesday ordered a new sentencing hearing after determining that his controversial 30-day jail term for a former teacher convicted of raping a student may be illegal.
Yellowstone County District Court Judge G. Todd Baugh wrote that the mandatory minimum sentence for Stacey Dean Rambold should have been two years.
"In this court's opinion, imposing a sentence which suspends more than the mandatory minimum would be an illegal sentence," Baugh stated in ordering a new hearing for Friday afternoon, the Billings Gazette reported.
But the prosecutor isn't sure Baugh has the authority to impose new punishment, saying state law requires an appeal for illegal sentences. Yellowstone County Attorney Scott Twito has not yet decided whether to appeal to the Montana Supreme Court.
Rambold, 54, of Billings, admitted raping 14-year-old Cherice Moralez, who killed herself at age 16 when the case went to court in 2010. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison, but all but 31 days were suspended. Rambold got credit for one day already served.
In announcing the sentence Aug. 26, Baugh described Cherice as "older than her chronological age" and that she was "as much in control of the situation" as Rambold. The news generated global outrage, and Baugh later apologized for his remarks, calling them "stupid and wrong," but he stood by the 30-day sentence.
"What I said is demeaning of all women, not what I believe and irrelevant to the sentencing," Baugh wrote in a letter to Gazette editor. "My apologies to all my fellow citizens."
Cherice's mother, Auliea Hanlon, stormed out of the original sentencing hearing. In a written statement, she said, "I guess somehow it makes a rape more acceptable if you blame the victim, even if she was only 14."