In the past, this column has highlighted whiners, cheats, poor losers and poor winners. This year Fits and Pieces spotlights two “His Honors” who lack honor and a bean counter who shouldn’t count.
U.S. District Court Judge Richard F. Cebull sent an email last year suggesting that President Barack Obama’s mother had sex with a dog.
In the e-mail, received by Cebull and forwarded to a half dozen of his friends, a young Obama asks his mother why he’s black and she is white. “Don’t even go there, Barack! From what I can remember about that party, you’re lucky you don’t bark!” his mother replies.
Cebull added a postscript: “I hope the story touches your heart like it did mine.”
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit announced it had appointed a committee of Cebull’s peers to investigate the incident, which sparked calls for his resignation from individuals and groups across Montana and across the nation.
Weeks later the panel of Cebull’s fellow judges reported completion of a “thorough and extensive” investigation. They gave no indication of what they found, whom they questioned or previous complaints (if any) against Cebull.
The public was left wondering if Cebull’s bit of toxic racism touched the hearts of the committee members as it did Cebull’s.
Cebull, nominated by President George W. Bush, stepped down as chief U.S. district judge in October and took a reduced caseload. He apologized for sending the letter back in the spring.
Cebull eventually retired, effective May 3.
Cebull’s correspondence is an excellent example of how virulent racism is passed from one generation to the next.
District Judge Todd Baugh stumbled when he commented on the rape of a middle school student by her teacher.
The girl committed suicide, delaying resolution of this case. The case grew old. Old cases grow stale. Prosecutors offered to dismiss the charges if Rambold admitted to one charge of rape and completed a sex offender treatment program.
Rambold took the deal but failed to tell his counselors about relationships he had with women, a violation of his deal. So his case was revived and it was up to Baugh to decide on a punishment.
Baugh faced calls to step down immediately after handing down a 30-day sentence to the rapist teacher.
The judge, eldest son of the legendary quarterback “Slamming” Sammy Baugh, behaved like a running back who had suffered one too many concussions and wandered off the field into the weeds.
Baugh said the girl “seemed older than her chronological age” and was “as much in control of the situation” as the teacher.
The judge admitted being confused. Prosecutors had asked for a 20-year sentence with 10 years suspended. Instead, Baugh followed the more lenient recommendation of the defense, which called for a sentence of 15 years, with all but 30 days suspended.
Baugh later explained, “I made some references to the victim’s age and control, but it didn’t come out correct.” He added, “What I said was demeaning to all women, not what I believe in and irrelevant to the sentencing.”
More than irrelevant, the judge’s remarks added poison to the atmosphere of shame that causes girls to kill themselves rather than report a rape.
Fellow members of the legal community have said they believe his explanation. “Todd wouldn’t say that,” says a lawyer who had known the judge for decade. Baugh’s term ends this year. He has said he will not run for re-election.
Max Lenington, longtime county treasurer, school superintendent and auditor, attacked the president and used the “n” word in an e-mail to his sister. His use of a county-owned computer made the message a public statement, critics said.
More county-owned racism.
Lenington’s prose prompted calls for his resignation. Lenington did not resign. He says he will not run for re-election. If he did, he likely would win.