Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
(FILE - This undated file photo shows District Judge G. Todd Baugh presiding at a hearing in Great Falls, Mont. The Montana judge under fire for commenting that a 14-year-old student rape victim appeared “older than her chronological age,” said Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2013, that he deserves to be censured but not removed from the bench for the remarks. Baugh told The Associated Press) the comments violated judicial ethics rules by failing to promote public confidence in the courts. But he repeated prior assertions that his comments did not factor into the 30-day sentence handed down in the case. And he said he has no immediate plans to resign in the face of formal complaints filed by rape victim advocates. (AP Photo/Billings Gazette, Larry Mayer, File)
Montana judge says he broke ethics code with rape remarks
First Published Dec 04 2013 08:09 am • Last Updated Dec 04 2013 08:09 am

Billings, Mont. • A Montana judge says he doesn’t deserve to lose his job for commenting that a 14-year-old rape victim appeared "older than her chronological age" when he sentenced her teacher-rapist to just a month in prison.

But District Judge G. Todd Baugh acknowledged his remarks, coupled with the public furor over the lenient sentence, violated judicial ethics rules. He said he deserves to be censured for failing to promote confidence in the courts and for not avoiding the appearance of impropriety.

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

The victim’s mother said in response that she did not care if Baugh is censured or removed. Neither outcome would accomplish anything for her daughter, who killed herself before the case went to trial, Auliea Hanlon said.

"The damage is done and whether they remove him or not is not going to change anything. All I can say is I hope he doesn’t run again," she said.

The 72-year-old judge, first elected in 1984, said he has not decided whether he will seek a sixth term next year. But he has no plans to resign in the face of formal complaints filed by advocates for rape victims. And he repeated his assertion that his comments did not factor into the 30-day sentence handed down in the case.

Besides the comment about the victim’s age, Baugh said at the sentencing hearing for her rapist that she "was probably as much in control of the situation as was the defendant."

"I can understand the appearance of impropriety, but I wasn’t trying to blame the victim," he said during an interview with The Associated Press in his chambers at the Yellowstone County Courthouse in Billings. "I don’t think it’s appropriate to be removed."

Baugh sentenced Stacey Rambold in August for the 2007 rape of high school freshman Cherice Moralez.

Rambold, a former business teacher at Billings Senior High School, was 47 at the time. Court records indicate he assaulted Moralez three times over the course of several months.

The office of Montana Attorney General Tim Fox has appealed Rambold’s sentence as illegal and too lenient. He remains free while the appeal is pending before the Montana Supreme Court.

story continues below
story continues below

In a Nov. 13 letter from Baugh to the Judicial Standards Commission, the judge defended the sentence despite his earlier acknowledgements that it appeared to be illegal. He said his description of the sentence as "fair" in the letter referred to the full 15-year-term, most of which he suspended.

In the letter — meant to be confidential but obtained by The Associated Press — Baugh pointed to what he called the "morally good conduct" of Rambold in the years after he agreed to a deferred prosecution.

That 2010 deal allowed Rambold to avoid a conviction until he violated its terms by having unauthorized visits with his relatives’ children and entering a sexual relationship with one or more adult women.

A representative of an advocacy group that filed one of seven pending complaints against the judge said the letter shows Baugh still has not taken ownership of his comments.

"He’s saying the defendant did the morally right thing. Excuse me, the man raped the girl. What is so morally right about that?" said Marian Bradley, director of the Montana chapter of the National Organization for Women. "He should be removed or he should remove himself."

Hanlon said after reviewing a copy of Baugh’s letter that she was "highly disappointed" in his response.

Baugh also said Tuesday that a member of the state judicial ethics panel told him in October that he would be recommended for censure by the state Supreme Court over his comment.

The claim could not be verified because the Montana Judicial Standards Commission typically does not release information about pending cases. Commission chairman Edward McLean, a state district judge in Missoula, said in an email that its policy is not to comment on any matters pending before the commission.

Baugh declined to say which member of the five-person panel he had spoken with.

"I’m kind of a lightning rod on this and I don’t want somebody collaterally damaged," he said.

Commission Executive Secretary Shelly Nash said the Baugh complaints are "still under consideration and review." The matter is expected to come before the panel at its next meeting on Dec. 10, Nash said.

Next Page >

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment

About Reader Comments

Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.