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COMMENTARY: The rape of Cherice Morales, by her teacher and a judge

Is there anyone, anywhere who truly believes that a 14-year-old girl is mature enough to engage in a sexual relationship? How about a 14-year-old boy? Anyone?

Apparently, Montana District Judge G. Todd Baugh believes it. Last week he sentenced Stacey Rambold to 31 days in jail after the 54-year-old teacher admitted to having sex with Cherice Morales, a 14-year-old student. Actually, Judge Baugh sentenced him to 30 years, but suspended all but 31 days and gave him credit for the one day he had spent in jail after he was arrested.

Judge Baugh said that Cherice was “older than her chronological age” and that she was “as much control of the situation” as the 49–year-old teacher. The judge has since apologized for the “older than her chronological age” remark, but stands firmly behind his sentence of 30 days claiming that he is privy to confidential information that we are not.

As if there could be any information that could override the facts of a 49-year-old teacher having sex (raping) a 14-year-old student. Here are the facts as we know them:

• In 2008, Cherice Morales was a freshman at Billings Senior High School, and had a sexual relationship with teacher Stacey Rambold.

• In 2008, Cherice Morales was 14.

• In 2008, Stacey Rambold was 49.

• The age of consent in Montana is 16.

Sadly, in 2010, while the case was still pending, and a few weeks before her 17th birthday, Cherice Morales committed suicide. Her mother told Judge Baugh that the relationship with Rambold was a “major factor” in her daughter’s suicide. We’ll never know what caused this young girl to end her life.
What we do know is the following:

• In 2010, after Cherise died, the prosecution agreed to defer prosecution for three years and if Rambold completed a sex offender course and stayed away from children – the charges would be dropped.

• In return for the prosecution consideration: Rambold admitted to one count of sex without consent, which could be admissible if the case was ever revived, and he agreed to register as a sex offender.

• In 2012 the prosecution revived the prosecution after they learned that Rambold has been expelled from the sex offender program when it was learned that he had been having unsupervised visits with minors, who were family members, and did not inform counselors that he had been having sexual relations with a woman.

• Judge Baugh sent him to jail for 30 days because he said he wasn’t convinced that the reason for Rambold’s termination from treatment were serious enough to warrant the 10-year prison term the prosecutors were recommending.

Cherice Morales was 14 and is now dead by her own hand.

Stacey Rambold was 49 and spends 30 days in jail and lives to see another day.

The age of consent in Montana is 16.

Rape is rape.

Why is the law simply not the law? And how can any judge believe that a 14-year-old is “as much control of the situation” as a 49-year-old man?

It’s a damn crazy world.

SDGLN Contributor Barb Hamp Weicksel was born in 1952 in Pennsylvania and moved to California in the early 1980s, where she met her partner Susan. They've been together some 30 years and share the love of Susan's four children, nine grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. Her blog, Barb's Gift of Gab, can be found HERE.