Stacey Dean Rambold, 54, is a former teacher who confessed to a sexual relationship with Cherice Morales, a 14-year-old girl at his high school — a girl who later committed suicide. Despite the original charge of multiple counts of statutory rape and a sentencing to 15 years in prison, Yellowstone County District Judge G. Todd Baugh suspended all of that sentence but 31 days and then gave him credit for one day in jail. That left a sentence of 30 days for statutory rape.
In response to the sentence, the girl’s mother yelled “You people suck!” at the judge and courtroom.
Rambold pleaded guilty to the single felony charge in April. It was a delayed plea in a case from 2008. He resigned his teaching job and surrendered his teaching certificate after the disclosure of the relationship. After the girl committed suicide, the prosecution appears to have thrown in the towel on the prosecution and cut a remarkable deal with Rambold. The prosecutors agreed to put the case on hold for three years and then dismiss the rape charges if Rambold completed a sex offender treatment program and complied with other conditions. However, Rambold was terminated from the program after completing two of the three treatment phases. He had met with minors in violation of the rules, even though it was later found to be children in his own family. He was also accused of having a sexual relationship with a woman in violation of the guidelines. I am a bit surprised that this would be serious enough to terminate him but he was thrown out of the program in violation of the agreement.
Judge Baugh disagreed with the renewed prosecution and the removal of Rambold from the treatment program. He said that tapes indicated to him that the 14-year-old girl was “as much in control of the situation” as the teacher. He also decided that Cherice was “older than her chronological age.” the age of consent in Montana is 16 years old.
While I agree with the concern over the termination for visiting with minors in his own family (though it should not have happened), I still find the original prosecution deal rather surprising for a teacher who not only committed statutory rape but abused his position of authority in a public school setting. It would seem that some jail time would be warranted even if a long incarceration may be viewed as inappropriate in the circumstances. On the same measure, 30 days is remarkably low though the judge appears to be motivated in part by his view that the defendant should not have been deprived of the benefit of the original plea.
What do you think?