Judge Under Fire for Lenient Rape Sentence Orders New Hearing

He conceded 30 days for admitted rapist could violate state law

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Billings Gazette, Paul Ruhter, File / AP

Stacey Rambold standing in a courtroom after sentencing by Judge G. Todd Baugh in Billings, Mont.

A Montana judge who has been fiercely criticized for giving an admitted rapist only 30 days in prison acknowledged Tuesday the sentence may have been illegal and ordered the defendant back to court for a new hearing.

District Judge G. Todd Baugh said state law appears to require a mandatory minimum sentence of two years for Stacey Rambold, 54, who was convicted of raping a 14-year-old student who later committed suicide, the Associated Press reports. Baugh has been the target of protests and petitions seeking his resignation since issuing the short sentence, in which he said the girl was in “as much in control of the situation” as her teacher and “older than her chronological age.”

But the judge’s attempted course correction — he wants Rambold back in court Friday — has done little to win over Baugh’s critics.

“I wish the judge had been thoughtful enough to get it right the first time,” said Eran Thompson, a member of Not in Our Town, a Billings, Mt., group that works against hate crimes. “The judge cannot take back the words he said when he blamed the victim. As far as we’re concerned, Judge Baugh has lost the trust of this community.”