Who was District Judge G. Todd Baugh addressing when he said a 14-year-old girl, raped multiple times, shared responsibility for the crime with the 49-year-old teacher who raped her?
The judge’s remarks might have been aimed at the victim, her assailant, or the public.
The Judge spilled his apology into the courtroom while he was sentencing former Billings teacher Stacey Rambold, who admitted to raping 14-year-old Cherice Moralez numerous times. Moralez later committed suicide.
Baugh ordered Rambold to serve 15 years in prison, with all but 30 days suspended, for a single count of sexual intercourse without consent.
While explaining the sentence, Baugh said he had reviewed statements Moralez made to investigators before her death and concluded that she was a troubled youth but was “as much in control of the situation as the teacher.”
Baugh said Moralez was “older than her chronological age.”
Auliea Hanlon, the victim’s mother, stormed from the courtroom shouting, “You people suck.”
Hanlon had told the court that the rapes were the key cause of her daughter’s suicide and asked the judge to send Rambold to prison.
Later she issued a statement that read: “I guess it somehow makes a rape more acceptable if you blame the victim - even if she is only 14.”
Baugh’s statement made headlines and network news from coast to coast. An online petition calling for his resignation was soon circulating. By 6 p.m. Thursday, 30,000 people had signed the petition. A half-hour later, the number of signatures topped 36,000.
Baugh was not the only judge to take a stroll through his own mouth. Federal Judge Richard Cebull sent a racist-sexist joke to seven friends via his office’s email account last year. The joke cast President Obama’s mother as a wild party fiend who fornicated with animals.
The judge admitted the joke was racist but said he did not send it for that reason. He sent it because it was anti-Obama.
Both judges used an ancient strategy. We could call it the “Oops! Defense.” If a criminal defendant used this ploy in Baugh’s or Cebull’s court, either judge would have sent the defendant down the road talking to himself.
The thieves crucified beside Christ might have pleaded “Oops.” Judas, Aaron Burr or Benedict Arnold might have taken refuge in the Oops! Defense. Neither Cebull nor Baugh would have accepted an Oops! plea but both judges found the old dodge suitable for personal use.
The Oops! Defense comes in a variety of flavors and fits the pistol of a variety of defendants, e.g., the boy who batted a baseball through the living room window, the teenage girl who broke out in pregnancy, the hobo caught with a couple of prime chickens in a tow sack. The Oops! excuse is offered in all these cases but never successfully.
Yellowstone County Treasurer Max Lenington is not a judge, but he recently found himself staring out of mug shots on the pages of the Gazette. Lenington wrote a scalding “why I hate the Obamas” letter to the editor and sent it to a number of newspapers.
Billings, a Republican town, in a Republican county, seemed to accept Lenington’s hate mail. Maybe it’s because he carries extra weight. In addition to being county treasurer, Lenington is Yellowstone County’s superintendent of schools and assessor.
Besides, Lenington’s sin was not as severe. He never libeled the president or attacked his mother. His victim was the columnist who wrote the hate stuff in the first place, Daily Rant writer Michael Massie. Lenington stands accused of plagiarism. His apology, which followed the nasty letter, did not indicate that Lenington knows what plagiarism is.
He’s just not the sharpest bureaucrat in the courthouse.