judge hand with gavel

A fourteen year-old student entered into a sexual relationship with a middle-aged teacher at her Montana high school. The student killed herself weeks before her 17th birthday as her sexual relationship with the teacher, Stacey Rambold, 54, became a criminal case.

Under Montana state law, children younger than 16 cannot consent to sexual intercourse, which makes Rambold’s crime felony rape.  After pleading guilty to rape but then failing to meet sex-offender guidelines that would have kept him out of prison, Rambold was sentenced on Monday by Judge G. Todd Baugh.

Chief Deputy County Attorney Rod Souza argued at the hearing for a prison sentence of 20 years, with 10 years suspended.  But that recommendation fell on deaf ears – the sentence handed down by Judge Baugh?  A net sentence of 30 days in jail to the former Senior High teacher.  Baugh said the victim was a troubled youth who was “older than her chronological age.” He also said she was “as much in control of the situation” as the teacher.

When the judge’s remarks sparked public outrage, he stood by his comments on Tuesday, according to Billings Gazette reports. “Obviously, a 14-year-old can’t consent. I think that people have in mind that this was some violent, forcible, horrible rape,” Baugh said, according to the Billings Gazette account. “It was horrible enough as it is just given her age, but it wasn’t this forcible beat-up rape.

Just a year ago, we learned from U.S. Rep. Todd Akin that there is such a thing as legitimate rape:  “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” Now we have a sitting judge distinguishing between “violent, forcible, horrible rape” and ….what?

Critics of Baugh’s remarks are planning a rally on Thursday. They have also launched a petition drive against the judge. Protest organizer Sheena Rice said the suggestion that any 14-year-old child was on equal footing with a rapist in his 40s, let alone a person of authority, like a schoolteacher, was outrageous.

So, what does this have to do with Colorado?  For several years, conservative political organizations in our state have been advocating for replacing our current system of selecting judges through a bi-partisan panel with elections.  Judge Baugh is a good example of the quality of the bench produced by special-interest fueled elections.  

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