Montana judge suspended over rape comments opposes discipline

The Montana judge who made disparaging remarks about a teenage sexual assault victim and issued an unusually light sentence to her attacker last year is asking the state’s Supreme Court to withdraw his suspension.

Judge G. Todd Baugh, who was soundly rebuked when he suggested that the 14-year-old victim of a 2008 sexual assault case was “as much in control of the situation” as her assailant, Casey Rambold, contends in court papers filed Friday that inaccurate news accounts helped lead to his suspension.

The victim killed herself before Rambold was arrested, though it is not clear if the suicide was linked to the assault.

Baugh issued a suspended sentence to Rambold, a teacher who pleaded guilty to one county of sexual intercourse without consent and faced 20 years in prison, meaning he served 30 days in jail.

In Montana, the minimum sentence for that crime is two years. Baugh later tried to have the sentence modified, but the Supreme Court blocked him on procedural grounds.

The Supreme Court in May ordered a different judge to resentence Rambold and the former teacher could face additional prison time.

Baugh has admitted in court filings that he erred by issuing the light sentence, but comments he made during and after the sentencing made the veteran judge the target of a torrent of criticism.

He suggested that the victim was “a troubled youth” and “older than her chronological age.” When questioned by reporters last year, Baugh also downplayed the crime, describing it as “horrible enough as it is given her age, but it wasn’t this forcible beat-up rape.”

In the papers filed Friday, Baugh argued that out-of-context media reports helped fan the public outcry that led to his suspension.

“It’s not so much that the media do not report the truth; the problem is they do not report the whole truth,” Baugh wrote.

Baugh also wrote that the purpose of the suspension was to protect the integrity of the court where he served, Yellowstone County Superior Court, but said that the case did not damage the court.

The Supreme Court decided to suspend Baugh for 30 days. The suspension is slated to take effect in December, and will conclude at the end of the year, when Baugh is set to retire from the bench.

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