BILLINGS — A Montana judge under fire for commenting that a 14-year-old student rape victim appeared "older than her chronological age" said Tuesday that he deserves to be censured but not removed from the bench for the remarks.
District Judge G. Todd Baugh told The Associated Press the comments violated judicial ethics rules by failing to promote public confidence in the courts. But he repeated his prior assertions that his comments did not factor into the 30-day sentence he handed down in the case, and said he has no plans to resign.
"I shouldn't have said that ... I don't contest that appearance of impropriety," he said during an interview in his Billings office. "I don't think it's appropriate to be removed."
Baugh sent former teacher Stacey Rambold to prison in August for the rape of the student who later killed herself.
The office of Montana Attorney General Tim Fox has appealed Rambold's sentence as lenient and illegal, but the former Billings High School business teacher remains free while the case is pending.
Baugh said he was told by a member of the state judicial ethics panel that he would be recommended for censure by the Montana Supreme Court over his comments. The claim could not be verified because the Montana Judicial Standards Commission typically does not release information about pending cases, said Shelly Nash, the commission's executive secretary.
Baugh declined to say which member of the five-person panel he had spoken with.
"I'm kind of a lightning rod on this and I don't want somebody collaterally damaged," he said.
The state argued in a court documents filed Friday that Rambold should have served a mandatory minimum of four years behind bars, and that an even longer sentence of 20 years with 10 years suspended was justified.
Prosecutors had earlier said at least two years in prison was required. Yellowstone County Attorney Scott Twito said Tuesday that attorneys for the state decided to rely on a different section of state sentencing laws. He added that he respected their decision.
"It's just confusing," Twito said. "The Supreme Court should provide some clarification on how the statutes operate on cases such as this. That's been a struggle all along."