MT Supreme Court Blocks Re-Sentencing Hearing
The Montana Supreme Court ordered a Billings judge to cancel a re-sentencing hearing today, for a former teacher who received 30 days in prison for raping a 14-year-old student. Beartooth NBC spoke with Montana's attorney general for his comments on the matter.
The Montana Attorney General's Office filed an emergency petition for writ of prohibition with the state Supreme Court Thursday evening. The office asked the court to prevent today's re-sentencing hearing, on the basis that District Court Judge G. Todd Baugh lacks the authority to reconsider the sentence he gave to former Billings teacher Stacey Rambold. Today the Montana Supreme Court granted the state's petition, and vacated the hearing.
Attorney General Tim Fox says, "The Montana Supreme Court, we envision, will be asked to review that sentence, which we believe to be an illegal sentence. Beyond that, we'll have to brief the issue and we'll have to make some determinations on just what this office will ask for in a form of relief from the Supreme Court."
Judge Baugh has been criticized nationally for the August 26th sentencing, and for saying the victim was "older than her chronological age." Since then, the judge has tried to retract his comments and apologize for them. Fox says the sentence was illegal because the length of time was below the statutory minimum. He says throughout the proceedings, his department will focus on helping the county attorney in the appeals process.
"We have not made a decision as to what kind of arguments that we will make in the Supreme Court. But eventually there will be briefs filed and arguments made by both parties I'm sure."
Prosecutors say Rambold must serve at least two years in prison. Rambold's defense attorney says the sentence was appropriate, and can be undone only on appeal.
According to court documents, Montana Supreme Court justices say they are taking no position on the legality of the imposed sentence, and will address the parties' arguments in that regard on appeal. The ruling was supported by four of the court's six justices. Chief Justice Mike McGrath and Justice Brian Morris denied the petition.
Story by Charlie Misra, Beartooth NBC.
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