Target: Mike McGrath, Chief Justice of the Montana Supreme Court
Goal: Support the suspension of a judge who claimed a sexual assault victim shared responsibility for her rape
Judge Todd Baugh has been suspended and publicly reprimanded by the Montana Supreme Court for suspending the sentence of a former teacher who raped his 14-year-old student. The teacher, Stacey Dean Rambold, was sentenced to 15 years in prison—a sentence that was then lessened by Judge Baugh to just 30 days because, in his words, the victim was “in control” and “older than her chronological age.” The judge also told the media that the rape “wasn’t this forcible beat-up rape.” The victim subsequently committed suicide.
Rambold, who eventually plead guilty to sexual intercourse without consent, served his 30-day sentence last year. Since the minimum sentence for this charge under Montana state law is two years, the court also overturned the previous sentence and Rambold is now awaiting re-sentencing.
Although the court did not mete out the harshest punishment, which would have been a permanent ban from the bench, Baugh has already announced that he does not plan on running for reelection when his current term expires in December of this year. Since he will be suspended without pay for the duration of December, the suspension and censure effectively amounts to an early retirement for Judge Baugh.
In its statement, the court concluded that “there is no place in the Montana judiciary for perpetuating the stereotype that women and girls are responsible for sexual crimes committed against them.” Baugh was suspended for violating judicial ethics, including issuing an unlawful sentence and making inappropriate public comments. Commend the court for upholding victims’ rights and condemning sexist stereotyping.
Dear Judge McGrath,
The “blame the victim” mentality displayed by Judge Todd Baugh is a dangerous and oppressive sentiment perpetuated by our society’s sexualization of young girls, and especially young girls of color. That Judge Baugh could even fathom a 14-year-old child being “in control” of the 50-year-old man who was raping her is both morally reprehensible and a sad condemnation of the way our justice system treats sexual assault victims.
There is never an excuse for rape, and it is extremely important that anyone in a position of power over victims and perpetrators understand this fully. Judge Baugh’s blatant misogyny and lack of judgement in this case have rendered him unfit for service in our judicial system. Hopefully his suspension and public censure will help educate others who may hold his harmful views.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Adam sk via Wikimedia Commons