State Supreme Court Stops Montana Judge From Increasing Rapist’s Sentence After Public Outcry

article-2402937-1b7bd6a3000005dc-73_306x423We previously discussed the shocking sentence handed down by Montana Judge G. Todd Baugh to a teacher who raped a 14-year-old student. Stacey Rambold, 54, (left) was given just 30 days in jail after Baugh found that the victim was “older than her chronological age.” It produced an outcry on this blog and other sites. Baugh then magnified the concerns over his judicial judgment by responding to the outcry by trying to re-sentence Rambold. It left the impression of a judge seeking a longer sentence in direct response to public pressure. The Montana Supreme Court stepped in to order Baugh to cancel the resentencing hearing.

What is curious is that the prosecutors did not challenge the 30-day sentence as illegal until the days after the sentencing and said that they later learned that the mandatory minimum term for sexual intercourse without consent was two years.

For those of us who viewed the sentence as demonstrably too light, the attempt to resentence Rambold added a new problem. Regardless of one’s view of Rambold, he has due process rights and should not face resentencing because the judge feels the pressure of public criticism and calls for his resignation. The Montana Supreme Court ruled that he lacked authority to impose a new sentence when the case was not on appeal.

When the Supreme Court learned of the plans for a resentencing, it orders Baugh to stop and declared that such an act would “cause gross injustice to an orderly appeal.”

Regardless of the outcome, the victim will not be here to see it. Cherice Moralez, committed suicide in 2010 while the case was pending.

23 thoughts on “State Supreme Court Stops Montana Judge From Increasing Rapist’s Sentence After Public Outcry”

  1. Anonymously Yours 1, September 10, 2013 at 6:38 pm


    I’ll leave it to you…. We will see what happens…
    This Montana case, discussing Montana statutes regarding sentencing court authority to increase a sentence, seems to be on point:

    ¶ 14 Turning to the statute addressing a district court’s authority to correct its own judgments, § 46-18-116(3), MCA, provides in its entirety:

    The court may correct a factually erroneous sentence or judgment at any time. Illegal sentences must be addressed in the manner provided by law for appeal and postconviction relief.

    As the District Court issued a partially illegal sentence rather than a factually incorrect one, the plain language of this statute requires that such a sentence be reviewed by this Court on appeal or during postconviction proceedings and not be “corrected” by the District Court.

    While Petersen characterizes the District Court’s original sentence as a “rejection of the plea agreement,” authorizing him to withdraw his guilty plea, we conclude the District Court expressly accepted the plea agreement but erroneously appended the 10-year sentence enhancement.

    This being so, the proper remedy is not to allow Petersen to withdraw his guilty plea but rather to review the partially illegal sentence on appeal.

    (State v Peterson). The order of the Montana Supreme Court in the instant case (State v Rambold) cites State v Peterson.

    It cites no other case in its opinion and order which directs the sentencing judge not to modify the sentence, indicating that Peterson is dispositive on applicable procedural law.

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