Last Thursday, among the hundreds of protesters outside the offices of a Montana judge who shortened to 30 days the sentence of a teacher convicted of raping his 14-year-old student, was a surprise guest: the judge himself, flanked by police officers, arms folded. He didn’t say a word, according to protest organizer and NOW-Montana president Marian Bradley. That’s probably just as well, given how much his public statements have inflamed the public. Now that the case has drawn national attention, Bradley and others are trying to get Judge G. Todd Baugh removed.
Tuesday, Baugh ordered a hearing set for Friday to rule whether Baugh’s sentence was too lenient, the Wyoming Tribune reported. In the order, Baugh said that the minimum for the crime appears to be two years, and not 30 days, the paper reported.
While he may be reconsidering his sentence, the process for removing Baugh from the bench is neither simple nor transparent.
In suspending the fifteen-year prison sentence for former teacher Stacey Rambold for raping a student who later committed suicide, Baugh said the victim was ”older than her chronological age” and “as much in control of the situation” as her adult teacher. The judge’s apparent apology made it worse: “I think that people have in mind that this was some violent, forcible, horrible rape. It was horrible enough as it is, just given her age, but it wasn’t this forcible beat-up rape.” Todd Akin couldn’t have put it better.
The age of consent in Montana is 16, meaning that even without any use of force, or the abuse of power issues involved in a teacher-student relationship for that matter, Morales was legally unable to consent. Going by the law alone, said Bradley, “He shouldn’t have even gone there.”’
Justice4Cherice, a group organized by Montana’s chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW), is trying to get concerned citizens to file judicial complaints against Baugh. The complaints have to be notarized and highly specific, as laid out in this Google document, but residency in Montana is not required. ”We’re asking people to tell us their tracking numbers so we can confirm that a certain number of complaints were delivered to the Montana Judicial Standards Commission,” said NOW president Marian Bradley. The Montana legislature meets only every two years, so in lieu of a special session, flooding the Board with complaints is the fastest route to removal. NOW has set September 10 as their own deadline for formal complaints.
Separately, the country attorney said Friday he would appeal Rambold’s sentencing. The original prosecution was stymied by the victim’s suicide; with no testimony, prosecutors struck a deal that included Rambold seeking treatment. When he was dismissed from the treatment center for breaking the rules, Rambold landed before Baugh, who sentenced him to 15 years in prison but suspended all but 30 days of his sentence.
Bradley has been inundated with upset responses from around the country, including from rape victims. “We’re hearing a lot from the ‘never-reporteds’,” she said.
Baugh initially ran unopposed, and announced his intention to seek reelection next year. If he doesn’t get removed, Bradley and her allies plan to see to it that he’ll have formidable opposition.