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An ex-teacher's one-month rape sentence was illegal, Montana's Supreme Court ruled Wednesday. Stacey Dean Rambold is now set be resentenced by a different judge, CNN reports.
Rambold, who was 49 at the time of the incident, pleaded guilty to raping a 14-year-old girl who later committed suicide. Rambold was originally sentenced to just 30 days in jail.
Why does this convicted rapist teacher need to be resentenced?
Mandatory Minimum Sentences
Rambold accepted a plea bargain last year in which he pleaded guilty to sexual intercourse without consent (i.e., rape) with one of his freshman students. During his sentencing hearing, Judge G. Todd Baugh made several comments implying that the 14-year-old victim was really the one in control and sentenced Rambold to spend only one month in jail.
Aside from Baugh's remarks being revolting, his sentence was in conflict with Montana's mandatory minimum sentence for rape when the victim is 16 or younger. In Montana, rapists who are more than four years older than such a victim must spend at least two years in prison if convicted.
Many laws call for mandatory minimum sentences for certain egregious crimes as a way to ensure punishment. For example, federal law provides mandatory minimums for drug crimes and for child pornography.
Since Rambold was many years older than his 14-year-old victim, he should have been forced to spend at least two years in prison under Montana law.
Mont. Supreme Court Orders Resentencing
After Judge Baugh handed down the one-month rape sentence, he later acknowledged it was likely illegal. The Montana Supreme Court confirmed that it was illegal to contradict the state's mandatory minimum law for convicted rapists, struck down the 30-day sentence, and remanded the case for resentencing.
This means that Rambold's case will go again before a Montana criminal court judge, but it won't be Judge Baugh. Judges can be removed or disqualified from a case if they appear biased or unable to promote justice and fairness.
In this case, the Montana High Court believed that Judge Baugh's comments about the rape victim's "chronological age" and the media flurry that followed were enough to have the case assigned to another judge.