Thursday, September 5, 2013

Judge Baugh Puts Montana on the Map

Judge G. Todd Baugh Puts Montana on the Map. His decision last week gave Montana more free publicity woldwide than any advertising campaign could generate. Montana is a magnificent state, one of the nation’s most beautiful. It’s fourth in size in the nation, but 44th in population. Its vastness encompasses the Big Sky Country. Flathead Lake is one of the most beautiful in the country. General Custer gave his all at the Little Big Horn. Glacier National Park lies in its boundaries and three of the five entrances to Yellowstone National Park are in Montana. The open pit copper mine in downtown Butte is a legacy of the extreme drive for resource exploitation in the West as with the asbestos tragedy of Libby, Montana. I once bought a t-shirt in Glendive that said “I’m in Glendive for a good time, not a long time.” Yet, Montana is off the beaten track for most American tourists. It’s as long to drive across as Texas. The result is that most Americans know of Montana, but the closest most have come is at 35,000 feet. Montana, like every state, witnesses sexual assaults. Most police forces and judges understand the sensitive nature of sexual assault cases, and temper their remarks and acts accordingly. Judge G. Todd Baugh issued an opinion last week that has put Billings, Montana on the world map. The BBC covered it on its worldwide website. Judge Baugh’s case involved a sentencing decision. Stacey Dean Rambold, the defendant, was a 49 year old teacher who had sex with a 14 year old student in 2008. That is statutory rape. The victim committed suicide two years later, whereupon the Prosecutor’s Office entered into a plea agreement. Rambold was charged with three felony counts of sexual intercourse without consent. He pled guilty to one count of rape in a “deferred prosecution” settlement. The case would be dismissed if he completed a sex-offender treatment program. The district attorney felt compelled to settle because the victim’s suicide deprived the state of their prime witness. Rambold failed to meet the conditions of the plea bargain. He continued to fool around. The State was back in court asking for a 20 year sentence. Rambold’s attorney argued the defendant had suffered enough. He had lost his career and marriage, and will forever be infamous on the internet. The Judge agreed with defense counsel. He sentenced Rambold to 15 years in prison, but then suspended all but 31 days of the sentence. Since the defendant had spent one day in jail, the sentence was effectively for 30 days The 71 year old jurist’s decision was offensive in itself, but he compounded the outrage by his explanation. He explained that defendant “made some violations of his treatment program. They were more technical and not the kind you would send someone to prison for.” He had viewed two video interviews of the victim. He said she “was older than her chronological age,” and was “as much in control of the situation” as defendant. Young women may reach sexual maturity at an earlier age today than in past generations, but the age of consent in Montana is 16. The 71 year old judge apologized a few das later for his opinion, and said “I don’t know what I was thinking or trying to say.” He’s up for reelection in 2014, but he should be off the court before them, perhaps by removal by the stat’s judicial review commission. The state will appeal the decision and Judge Baugh is having second thoughts. Judge Baugh is not the first judge to issue a highly offensive, sexist, or stupid opinion in a rape case. Nor sadly will he be the last. The Italian Supreme Court held in a 1999 opinion that a woman wearing jeans cannot be raped because the jeans are impossible for a rapist to remove unless she cooperates. It took he court 9 years until it recanted in 2008. A Minnesota judge a couple of decades ago said the victim was asking for it because of how she was dressed. He was quickly run off the bench. A Canadian judge said basically the same thing a few years ago. Newport Beach, California Judge Derek G. Johnson in December 2012 publicly apologized after the state Commission on Judicial Performance admonished him. He said in a 2008 sentencing hearing for a rapist “I’m not a gynecologist, but I can tell you something ….. If someone doesn’t want to have sexual intercourse, the body shuts down. The body will not permit that to happen unless a lot of damage is inflicted, and we have heard nothing about that in this case.” “That tells me that the victim in tis case, although she wasn’t necessarily willing, she didn’t put up a fight.” He called it a “technical rape,” not “a real live criminal case.” Judge Johnson sounded a lot like Missouri Congressman Todd Akin last year in his failed Senatorial campaign. 70 year old Sanford, Florida Judge Gene Stephenson apologized in 2004 for saying “Why would he [the defendant] want to rape her? She doesn’t look like a day at the beach.” He removed himself from the case. What were these judges thinking?

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