BILLINGS (AP) — A former Billings Senior High School teacher who pleaded guilty to raping a 14-year-old student who later killed herself has been sentenced to 30 days in jail by a judge who said the victim was "older than her chronological age" and "as much in control of the situation" as the teacher.
District Judge G. Todd Baugh sentenced Stacey Dean Rambold to 15 years in prison for sexual intercourse without consent, with all but 31 days suspended. He gave Rambold credit for one day already served, The Billings Gazette reported (http://bit.ly/1dmuHZo ).
The girl's mother repeatedly screamed, "You people suck!" and stormed out of the courtroom Monday.
Rambold, now 54, was charged in October 2008 with three counts of sexual intercourse without consent alleging that he had an ongoing sexual relationship with Cherice Morales, starting the previous year when she was 14.
Morales took her own life in February 2010 while the case was pending.
In July 2010, Rambold entered a three-year deferred prosecution agreement with prosecutors that said the charges would be dismissed if Rambold completed a sex offender treatment program and met other conditions, including having no contact with children. He also admitted to one rape charge.
The case was revived last December when prosecutors learned Rambold had been terminated from the sex offender treatment program.
Treatment provider Michael Sullivan said Rambold started missing meetings in August 2012, but Sullivan said he met with Rambold and he appeared to be back on track with his treatment.
Rambold was terminated from the program in November when it was learned that he had been having unsupervised visits with minors, who were family members, and did not inform counselors that he had been having sexual relations with a woman.
Defense attorney Jay Lansing said Rambold has since continued his treatment with a different program and an evaluation found him at low risk to re-offend.
Baugh said he was not convinced that the reasons for Rambold's termination from treatment were serious enough to warrant the 10-year prison term prosecutors recommended.
The judge said he listened to statements given by Morales before her death and believed that while she was a troubled youth, she was "as much in control of the situation" as Rambold and was "older than her chronological age."
Yellowstone County Attorney Scott Twito told The Associated Press on Tuesday that he would not appeal the judge's sentence.
"We respect the court's sentencing decision. We obviously disagree with it, based on the recommendations my attorneys made, but it appears to be legally permissible," he said.
Asked about Baugh's reasoning that a 14-year-old girl below the state's age of consent had an equal share of control of the relationship, Twito declined to answer directly.
"The judge's reasons are his reasons and his reasons alone. He has broad authority under state law, given the proper criteria," Twito said.
The case resulted in a $91,000 wrongful death settlement between the school district and Morales' family.
Rambold reached a confidential settlement with the girl's family.
Information from: Billings Gazette, http://www.billingsgazette.com