A former high school teacher convicted of raping his 14-year-old student, who would commit suicide three years later, will spend just 30 days in jail. Yellowstone County district judge G. Todd Baugh sentenced Stacey Dean Rambold to 15 years but suspended all but 31 days, in part because Judge Baugh said the 14-year-old victim was “older than her chronological age” and “as much in control of the situation” as Rambold.
Rambold, 54, raped Cherice Morales in 2008, when Morales was his 14-year-old student in at Billings Senior High School in Billings, Montana. In October 2008, prosecutors charged Rambold with three counts of sexual intercourse without consent, but the case remained pending for several years. In 2010, when she was 17, Morales killed herself. According to Morales's mother, the relationship with Rambold was a “major factor” in Morales's suicide.
In part because Morales's suicide disrupted their case, the Yellowstone County District Attorney's office reached an agreement with Rambold delaying prosecution for three years. If Rambold completed a sex offender program during that time, charges would be dismissed. As part of that agreement, Rambold admitted to one of the rape charges, knowing that the admission could be used against him.
Last November, Rambold was expelled from his sex offender program after his supervisor learned “he had been having unsupervised visits with minors and had not informed his counselors that he had been having sexual relations with a woman.” Prosecutors reintroduced the case last December, after learning of Rambold's dismissal from the program.
Despite testimony from Morales's mother asking him to “Please put [Rambold] behind bars,” Judge Baugh agreed with Rambold's defense attorneys, who argued that Rambold had suffered enough by losing his job and his wife as well as receiving a “scarlet letter of the internet.”
Prosecutors had sought a 20-year sentence, with 10 years suspended. When the verdict was read aloud, Morales's mother reportedly screamed out “You people suck!” and ran from the courtroom. Rambold was given credit for the one day in jail he'd already served.
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