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US judge’s apology rejected by victim’s mother

August 29, 2013

BILLINGS, Montana (AP) — The mother of a teenage rape victim said Thursday that a judge is “just covering his butt” after he apologized for saying that her 14-year-old daughter who eventually killed herself was “older than her chronological age.”

Auliea Hanlon said District Judge G. Todd Baugh’s apology was “irrelevant” because he has stood by the 30-day prison sentence given to rapist and former teacher Stacey Rambold.

Her daughter, Cherice Moralez, killed herself before Rambold’s case came to trial.

Hanlon rejected the judge’s apology on Thursday as she spoke to an Associated Press reporter during a rally for Baugh’s resignation.

The rally packed the Yellowstone County Courthouse lawn with hundreds of people, many carrying signs such as “Justice for Cherice” and “14 is 14.”

On Wednesday, Baugh said he “deserved to be chastised” for his comments about the victim, who he had said was “older than her chronological age” and had as much control of the situation as the high school teacher who was in a sexual relationship with her.

Baugh said he stood by his decision Monday to sentence Rambold to 30 days in jail — 15 years in prison, with all of but 31 days of that term suspended. He gave Rambold credit for one day already served.

“She wasn’t even old enough to get a driver’s license. But Judge Baugh, who never met our daughter, justified the paltry sentence saying she was older than her chronological age,” Hanlon said in a statement to the Gazette after Monday’s sentencing. “I guess somehow it makes a rape more acceptable if you blame the victim, even if she was only 14.”

Baugh, 71, wrote an apology Wednesday in a letter to the editor to The Billings Gazette. He said his comments were demeaning of all women and not reflective of his beliefs.

The judge later told reporters he was “fumbling around” in court trying to explain his sentence and “made some really stupid remarks.”

Protest organizer Sheena Rice said it’s important for the community to show it is not going to stand for victim blaming.

If Baugh doesn’t resign, protesters will try to defeat him in an election in 2014, Rice said.

Rambold was charged in October 2008 with three counts of sexual intercourse without consent after authorities alleged he had an ongoing sexual relationship with Cherice Moralez, starting the previous year when she was 14. Moralez killed herself in 2010 at age 16 while the case was pending.

Under state law, children younger than 16 cannot consent to sexual intercourse.

Yellowstone County officials agreed to defer Rambold’s prosecution for three years and dismiss the charges if he completed a sexual offender treatment program. The case was revived in December after prosecutors learned Rambold, 54, was kicked out of the program for having unsupervised visits with minors who were family members and not telling counselors he was having a sexual relationship with a woman.

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