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September 27, 2013

Ex-Mont. teacher freed after 30-day term for rape

BILLINGS, Mont. — A former Montana high school teacher registered as a sex offender and checked in with his probation officer during his first day of freedom after completing a 30-day sentence for raping a 14-year-old girl.

Stacey Rambold, 54, was picked up at the Montana State Prison in Deer Lodge by a family member Thursday, even as the state Supreme Court reviewed the sentence and critics called for the removal of the judge who handled his case.

District Judge G. Todd Baugh drew outrage last month over the sentence’s leniency and comments he made that appeared to pin some of the blame on the victim, Cherice Moralez.

The teen committed suicide in 2010 before Rambold went to trial.

Rambold made no public comments when he was seen later Thursday reporting to a state probation office back home in Billings.

He’s been registered as a level 1 sex offender — meaning he’s considered a low risk to re-offend— and will remain on probation through 2028 unless the original sentence is overruled.

State prosecutors say Rambold should have received a minimum of two years. But barring new offenses, the former teacher has served his time and will stay out of prison pending the appeal.

Moralez’s mother, Auliea Hanlon, said Rambold’s release shows he is “still skating” justice six years after he assaulted her daughter.

“I figured he’d be fired, go to jail, and she would be vindicated, and that would be the end of it,” Hanlon said. “Instead, here it is six years later, still going on.”

Rambold’s attorney, Jay Lansing, declined to comment on the defendant’s release. Several friends and family members of Rambold also declined to comment.

Under the terms of his release, Rambold must undergo treatment as a sex offender, is barred from unsupervised visits with anyone under the age of 18 and cannot return to teaching or take any other job that involves overseeing children.

He is required initially to report to his probation officer in Billings on a weekly basis. That’s subject to change once a risk assessment is completed to determine what level of long-term supervision Rambold needs, said John Williams, regional supervisor for the Montana Bureau of Probation and Parole.

Rambold went before Baugh in August after he violated a deferred-prosecution agreement by getting booted out of a sex-offender treatment program.

Baugh appeared to show sympathy for the defendant and agreed with Lansing’s recommendation that Rambold receive a 15-year sentence with all but one month suspended.  Prosecutors had sought a 20-year term with 10 years suspended.

Baugh also made comments pinning some of the responsibility in the case on Moralez, whom the judge described as “older than her chronological age.”

A formal complaint to have Baugh removed from the bench for alleged bias is pending before the state Judicial Standards Commission.

 

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