Posted: Sep 3, 2013 9:46 AM by Lindsey Gordon - MTN News
HELENA - As the story of the Billings judge that handed down a 31-day sentence to a teacher convicted of raping a student continues to receive national attention, reporter Lindsey Gordon talks with a local retired judge and a child welfare advocate who are weighing in on the controversial sentence and remarks.
When Billings District Court Judge Todd Baugh handed down a sentence for 31 days to Stacey Rambold, a former Billings high school teacher, convicted of raping a former student, the public was outraged.
However, it's the remarks he made about the victim's age and perceived control over the situation that have retired District Court Judge Dorothy McCarter talking. McCarter, who spent 23 years on the bench in Helena, said: "Baugh's statements were in poor judgement on his part and he wasn't very responsible."
Derek VanLuchene, the founder of Ryan United, a non-profit that advocates defending children against predators, said he's very concerned with the impact Baughs remarks will leave.
"In a way, we have to make sure that we don't re-victimize - we don't re-victimize the victim by our own justice system," he said.
Although in this instance, the victim committed suicide as the case was unfolding, VanLuchene says there's still a ripple effect.
"Behind every crime there's a victim and we know, we have to follow policy and we have to follow laws and things like that, but ultimately there's somebody that's very affected and a whole family that's affected and a community," said VanLuchene.
While Baugh gave an apology for his remarks, he continues to stand by the sentence he gave Rambold. McCarter says there's likely more than meets the eye in this case.
She adds,"When a judge sentences someone, they get a lot of information the public doesn't have. Sentences may seem light, but I hesitate to criticize the sentence until you see the pre-sentence investigation report."
In his line of work, VanLuchene can't justify that.
"You know you look at a crime against a child, the worst of the worst, and somebody gets thirty days...it's going to have a lasting effect not only on the family, but other victims, too. How are other victims going to perceive our justice system from this ruling?" he asks.