State District Judge G. Todd Baugh is now apologizing for remarks he made during the sentencing of a former Billings teacher who raped a 14 year old student.
Greg Tuttle has the scoop for The Billings Gazette:
“I don’t know what I was thinking or trying to say,” Baugh told The Billings Gazette. “It was just stupid and wrong.”
“What I said is demeaning of all women, not what I believe and irrelevant to the sentencing,” Baugh said in the letter. “My apologies to all my fellow citizens.”
Baugh said he plans to write an addendum to the court file this week explaining his reasons for the sentence he imposed more thoroughly.
Judge Baugh has come under fire across the country after news spread to The Drudge Report and elsewhere. Family in Denver tell me the story even made top headlines in Colorado.
Even after the withering criticism and the planned protest set for Thursday, Judge Baugh initially tried to explain the remarks, which only seemed like digging the hole even deeper.
Before this morning’s apology was available, residents in Billings were treated to news reports which seemed to show Baugh standing by his initial remarks.
From The Billings Gazette:
On Tuesday, Baugh stood by his comments that Moralez was a troubled youth who was older than her age when it came to sexual matters. That didn’t make Rambold’s sex with Moralez any less of a crime, he said.
“Obviously, a 14-year-old can’t consent. I think that people have in mind that this was some violent, forcible, horrible rape,” Baugh said. “It was horrible enough as it is just given her age, but it wasn’t this forcible beat-up rape.”
“Yesterday, I got up, I went to court, I was floored.” says Cherice’s mother, Auliea Hanlon. ” I thought there was a minimum sentence. I don’t know, my faith in the justice system is gone.” continued Hanlon.
And, from CNN:
Baugh defended his ruling. He told CNN he believes Rambold is “treatable” and a “low risk to re-offend.”
He added, “I simply did not have the evidence to conclude that her taking her life was because of her sexual offense by Mr. Rambold.”
I imagine if you were a young woman in Billings, Montana Monday afternoon, a feeling of relief crossed your mind as police announced that the suspect in a string of home invasions and sexual assaults had now been arrested.
By Tuesday morning, that relief likely turned to anger, as folks across the country were greeted with this headline on The Drudge Report:
It was likely welcome news that a sexual offender and home invader was taken off the streets, but seeing how our criminal justice system operates, how soon will it be until the home invader is back out on the streets? What was he doing back out on the streets in the first place?
According to court documents, interviews conducted with Hobby Lobby employees revealed that a man who frequented the store about once a week over the course of several years would often times follow women and, according to the employees, take pictures of them.
The man was identified as 41-year-old Toby Griego, a registered sex offender who had been living in Billings since 2008.
According to The Billings Gazette, it was as recent as 1997 that the home invasion suspect was convicted of raping a 16 year old.
Deputy County Attorney Juli Pierce described how Billings police detectives became aware of Griego through a tip that he had been following women at the Hobby Lobby arts and crafts store. The tip led detectives to begin a surveillance effort that revealed clues that led to his arrest.
Pierce also provided a history of Griego’s criminal past, which includes a 1997 conviction in New Mexico for a similar abduction and rape of a 16-year-old girl. Griego also has convictions in that state the following year for aggravated burglary, auto burglary and robbery.
The crimes were made public in early July when Montana State University Billings put out an advisory to students warning that college-age women had been sexually assaulted. Billings police then announced the string of six recent home-invasion rapes and asked the public for help identifying a suspect.
But when it comes to the story of the teacher who was only sentenced to 30 days in jail for raping a 14 year old student, it was the remarks of the judge that are now drawing fire and leading to a planned protest in the coming days:
Baugh said he was not convinced that the reasons for Rambold’s termination from treatment were serious enough to warrant the lengthy prison term suggested by the prosecution.
Baugh said he listened to recorded statements given by Morales before her death and believes that while she was a troubled youth, she was “as much in control of the situation” as Rambold.
The judge also said Morales was “older than her chronological age.”
Protest now planned. Sheena Rice had this via Twitter:
— Sheena Rice (@oflemon) August 27, 2013