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Sentence reconsidered in Montana rape case

– A Montana judge under fire for his comments about a 14-year-old victim in a schoolhouse rape case has ordered a new sentencing hearing for the former teacher who received just 30 days in prison for the crime.

In setting the hearing for Friday afternoon, District Judge G. Todd Baugh said Tuesday that state law appears to require that a two-year mandatory minimum prison term be imposed on Stacey Rambold, 54, of Billings.

Rambold last week was sentenced to 15 years, with all but 31 days suspended and a one-day credit for time-served. He began serving his monthlong term last week at the state prison in Deer Lodge.

“In the Court’s opinion, imposing a sentence which suspends more than the mandatory minimum would be an illegal sentence,” Baugh wrote.

The judge faced widespread condemnation from women’s-rights activists, elected officials and others for saying Rambold’s 14-year-old victim, Cherise Moralez, was “older than her chronological age” and asserting that she had some control over her months-long relationship with Rambold.

Moralez killed herself before Rambold’s case came to trial. The judge later apologized, although critics who have demanded that Baugh resign said an apology is not enough.

Baugh said in Tuesday’s order that the defendant’s presentencing memorandum claimed the minimum mandatory for sexual intercourse without consent was 30 days, and the state did not object until after the sentence was handed down.

Prosecutors had been considering an appeal, citing the two-year minimum requirement. But in a strange twist, Yellowstone County Attorney Scott Twito said Baugh may lack authority to impose such a sentence at this point. That’s because state law says an illegal sentence must be handled through the appeal process.

Hundreds of protesters rallied outside the Yellowstone County Courthouse last week to call for Baugh’s resignation. The 71-year-old judge was elected to the bench in 1984 and has been re-elected every six years since without an opponent. He’s up for re-election in 2014.

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