Judges have been disqualified for showing bias against criminal defendants. But, rarely, and I mean almost never, has a judge been disqualified from a criminal case for showing bias against the victim, and in this case, a 14-year-old rape victim who later killed herself.
That’s what happened this week in Montana.
I’ve written about many moron judges over the decades but I have got to say, Montana District Court Judge G. Todd Baugh, who essentially sentenced a teacher to a month in jail for raping a high school student, takes the all-time cake as jerk-off jurist.
Here's the backstory: Stacey Dean Rambold was charged with raping a girl who attended the Billings high school where he was business teacher. But before his trial in April 2010, the girl committed suicide.
In a plea deal later Rambold pleaded guilty to a single rape charge and prosecutors recommended he be sentenced to 20 years in prison because he had violated his “position of trust,” had “maintained his relationship with” the girl “for months” and had “been warned about inappropriate contact with students in the past.”
They knew what the rest of us know: sex offenders are incurable.
Rambold’s lawyer sought a 15-year sentence with all but 30 days being suspended.
Judge Baugh bought the defense pitch hook, line and stinker.
The judge gave Rambold 15 years, with all but 31 days (his time served) suspended – a slap on the wrist, or, a kiss on the ass, depending on your vantage point.
You see the judge is like a lot of judges who seem to think that when you “suspend” the bulk of a prison term it is a deterrent. You see a suspended can be re-imposed if you violate terms of your sentencing. Of course this cavalierly ignores punishment for the crime you were just convicted of. (Anyways, I digress.)
The dumb judge didn’t stop with his zero-punishment sentence. He couldn’t control himself. At the teacher’s sentencing, (and I can just see defendant Rambold nodding like a bobble-head doll in court), the judge had the gallbladder to say:
“In some respects, the Defendant took advantage of a troubled youth. I’ve looked at those interviews. And it’s easy enough to say the Defendant should have been aware, should not, obviously, have engaged in the conduct that he did. And it was a troubled youth, but a youth that was probably as much in control of the situation as was the Defendant, one that was seemingly, although troubled, older than her chronological age.”
Yeah, he said that. He called this 14-year-old “probably as much in control of the situation as was the defendant,” who, perhaps somebody should have reminded the judge, was 47 years old when he raped her in 2007. Public outrage followed and the judge was forced to apologize for being, well, as full of it as a horse’s hind end.
State prosecutors appealed his feather-light sentence, and on April 30 the Montana Supreme Court overturned Judge Baugh’s sentence, sending it back for a serious sentence. But, the Montana justices didn’t stop there, they basically told Judge Baugh to take a powder.
In a unanimous opinion written by Justice Michael E. Wheat, the justice wrote: “On remand for resentencing, we further instruct the court to reassign the case to a different judge to impose sentence.” The justice explained that in a 1993 precedent, “We remanded for resentencing to a new judge when the judge’s statement at trial evidenced bias against the defendant. . . . In the present case, Judge Baugh’s statements reflected an improper basis for his decision and cast serious doubt on the appearance of justice. The idea that (the victim) could have ‘control’ of the situation is directly at odds with the law, which holds that a youth is incapable of consent and, therefore, lacks any control over the situation whatsoever. That statement also disregards the serious power disparity that exists between an adult teacher and his minor pupil. In addition, there is no basis in the law for the court’s distinction between the victim’s “chronological age” and the court’s perception of her maturity.”
Judge Baugh is 72 years old and was first elected in 1984. He has said he will retire at the end of 2014. None too soon.
(Note on headline: apologies to the late Flip Wilson.)