Judge Apologizes for Comments - KULR-8 Television, Billings, MT

Judge Apologizes for Comments

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BILLINGS -

It's created a national call for a Billings judge to step down.

On Monday, Judge G. Todd Baugh sentenced a former teacher at senior high school to 31 days in jail for the rape of a 14-year-old.

From New York to Atlanta to Los Angeles, news programs around the country are debating the Yellowstone County District Court judge's decision.

Back in 2007, Stacey Rambold raped a teen student, who later killed herself. After violating terms of the plea deal, Judge Baugh then sentenced Rambold to the jail time. In his decision, the judge also said the victim was "older than her chronological age" and "as much in control of the situation" as the teacher. This set off a controversy that has the judge apologizing.

On Wednesday, Judge Baugh met with the local media where he apologized for his remarks and said he wanted the public to better understand his decision regarding the Rambold sentence. KULR 8's Greg Lamotte was in the judge's chambers and picks up this side of the story.

The judge initially asked that no recording devices be allowed in his chambers. He said he wanted to do the interview the old fashioned way. The judge started off by saying he made a stupid and dumb mistake. He said his mouth was engaged while his brain was not. He said he couldn't explain why he would suggest the 14-year-old held some responsibility for the rape and was older than her chronological age. He said he deserves to be chastised for what he called his dumb statements. He called himself a blithering idiot. Eventually, however, the judge agreed to allow cameras into his chambers and he issued the following statement.

"Ladies and gentlemen in the Rambold sentencing I made some references and control. I'm not sure just what I was attempting to say at that point but it didn't come out correctly. What I said was demeaning to all women not what I believe in and irrelevant to the sentencing. I owe all our fellow citizens an apology. As to the sentence itself, I'll add an addendum to the court file to hopefully better explain the sentence. Thank you," stated Judge Baugh.

As for the sentencing of Rambold, Judge Baugh said when the case was first filed it was recommended that Stacey Rambold be suspended from the classroom and enroll in a sexual offender treatment program.

As the case slowly progressed, the girl who was raped took her own life. Baugh says the state believed without her testimony it would not be able to obtain a conviction.

He says it was recommended Rambold continue in the treatment program.

Baugh, who's been in office since 1985, says Rambold was eventually kicked out of the program for failing to report that he had attended a family reunion in which there were underage nieces and nephews present.

He also failed to tell program administrators that he had had sexual relations with several adult women.

Judge Baugh said these were, in his view, minor infractions.

Prior to sentencing, treatment administrators recommended Rambold continue with treatment and said Rambold was at low risk for re-offending.

But, the state recommended Rambold be given a 20-year sentence with ten years suspended.

Instead, Baugh issued a 15-year sentence with all but 31 days suspended.

Baugh noted prosecutors previously agreed to defer prosecution and dismiss the charges if Rambold completed the program.

Baugh says had Rambold completed the treatment without violation, he would have walked away clear of the case.

Now, he says at the end of his 31-day sentence Rambold must register as a sex offender.

The judge is fully aware of the outrage his comments has produced across the country, and he knows people will call for his resignation, but says for now, he plans to stay in office at least until the end of his term next year.

A national petition was started online asking to impeach Judge Baugh.

People from all over the country are adding their name to the list calling for the removal of Judge Baugh.

One person wrote, "this judge needs some sensitivity training after he resigns."

Another person wrote, "we need wisdom on the court."

Yet another says, "the maturity of a 14-year-old and a 49-year-old are not comparable."

Right now more than 17-thousand people have already signed the petition surpassing their goal of 15-thousand signatures. Now, the goal has changed to 20-thousand.

On Thursday, there will be a protest outside the Yellowstone County Courthouse at 12:15 PM asking for the judge to resign.

Yellowstone County Attorney Scott Twito says as much as he may disagree with Judge Baugh's sentence on Rambold, he cannot repeal the sentence based on that.

Twito says Baugh applied the law that gives him the authority to sentence Rambold.

Twito also says he will review the judge's decision and that the review is routine, something he does for every sentence.

If he finds a legal basis for repeal, he will take appropriate action.