A few more points on the Billings verdict.
First, Judge Baugh today apologized for saying that a fourteen year old statutory rape victim was “older than her chronological age” and “was as much in control of the situation” as her 54-year-old assailant. He stands by the sentence (30 days in prison), which is less a slap on the wrist than a high five. And said he will soon be issuing an addendum to bis decision, an explanation of why he ruled as he did.
It did take him two tries to apologize. His first was a non-apology apology–saying, “It was horrible enough as it is just given her age, but it wasn’t this forcible beat-up rape.” He was then forced to issue a second apology later the same day.
There has been much speculation as to Baugh’s politics. I’ve been contacted by numerous Billings persons who say he is very conservative, a chummy old boy in the Yellowstone county club of crusty old right-wingers. Baugh has also run unopposed three times since 1984, and is up for election again in 2014. He is originally from Texas and, for all of you NFL bluffs, is the son of hall-of-fame quarterback Sammy Baugh of the Washington professional football team some refer to as the Pigskins.
As for the ruling, realize that the sentence was for a violation of the terms of a deferred prosecution agreement. The original sentence was for no jail time whatsoever–just treatment.
You see, amid the original prosecution for statutory rape, Cherice Moralez, the 14-year-old victim, killed herself. According to today’s press, the prosecution felt that they would not be able to get a conviction without her live testimony. They made Rambold a deal–go to treatment for three years, but sign a confession first. Rambold went to treatment but violated the terms (for example, he failed to report to his counselor that he had sex with another adult), and these violations, minor though they were, effectively re-empowered prosecutors, who held a signed confession of his crimes, to get the judge to issue a stiffer sentence commensurate with the original crime.
But, Judge Baugh decided that 30 days in prison is enough. One question which I raised yesterday is whether the race or ethnic origin of the victim, who appears to be a Latina girl, played a factor in the lenient sentence. That was speculation on my part, but it remains an open question, which will likely not be answered. Neither the context of the 30 day sentence, the original “no jail time” sentence, nor the girl’s ethnicity was reported by the initial Gazette “30 days” story, which was a big mistake.
Demonstrations are being planned by women’s groups in Billings for tomorrow, and petitions are being circulated for the judge’s removal. The judge, technically, could be recalled, impeached, or disciplined within the court system.