Prosecutors in Yellowstone County, Montana (Billings) announced late yesterday that they're looking for a window to appeal the outrageously light 30-day sentence imposed on Stacey Rambold for raping then 14-year-old girl Cherice Morales back in 2008. Morales was so distraught by the ordeal that she later committed suicide.
"This case is very important. As I've said before, this resulted in the loss of one of our young people in my community," said Scott Twito, a prosecutor with the Yellowstone County attorney's office. "We take these charges very seriously. And we fight for those victims."Twito--who is the county attorney, not just a deputy as the story implies-- sent a memo to state attorney general Tim Fox which argues Rambold should have gotten at least two years in prison. Fox will make the final decision on whether to appeal.
He said he strongly disagrees with the sentence District Judge G. Todd Baugh gave to Stacey Dean Rambold this week.
The case for an appeal may have gotten some additional ammo from an addendum Baugh published to his sentencing decision. For those who haven't been following this case closely, Cherice's suicide made prosecutors afraid that they wouldn't be able to get a conviction without her testimony. They agreed to a highly questionable deal in which the charges would be dropped if he completed a treatment program. However, Rambold was kicked out of the program in November 2012 in part for having contact with minor nieces and nephews. While other adults were present, Rambold had to get permission from his handlers in the program to have any contact with minors, supervised or not. And yet, Baugh claimed this was only a "minor" infraction. He also cited information that couldn't be released publicly for privacy reasons, but still impacted his decision.
There are two problems with this reasoning to my non-lawyer's mind. First, whatever happened was so traumatic that it caused Cherice to commit suicide. Seems to me that any sentence imposed should take that into account, even if he was deemed a low risk to offend. Second, even without Cherice's suicide to consider, you still have to consider that this was a teacher who raped one of his students. Rape is in and of itself a crime that demands prison time, especially if the perp is an authority figure. Seen in that light, I have to agree with Twito--the judge dropped the ball.