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No excuses: Judge Baugh should resign

by FRANK MIELE
| September 17, 2013 12:52 PM

District Judge G. Todd Baugh has said he’s sorry about the crass comments he made regarding a 14-year-old rape victim who later committed suicide, but that’s hardly enough.

In handing down the sentence for former Billings Senior High School teacher Stacey Rambold last month, Baugh said the teenage victim was “older than her chronological age” and had “as much control of the situation” as the teacher who raped her. He then proceeded to suspend all but 31 days of a 15-year sentence for the teacher.

The outrage against Judge Baugh was immediate, and he was profuse in his apologies.

In an Associated Press story, Baugh said he was “fumbling around” in court trying to explain his sentence and “made some really stupid remarks.”

“I don’t know how to pass that off. I’m saying I’m sorry, and it’s not who I am,” the judge said. “I deserve to be chastised. I apologize for that.”

He continued to grovel, telling the Billings Gazette, “it was just stupid and wrong.”

Then the judge attempted to resentence the former teacher and the Montana Supreme Court blocked it, saying the maneuver was unlawful.

Apologies just don’t go far enough in this case, even if Baugh is sincere. The only meaningful action is for Baugh to resign.

An online petition at MoveOn.org is being circulated, calling for the judge’s resignation. As of Friday afternoon, more than 58,000 signatures had been collected.

“Baugh has engaged in the worst kind of victim shaming,” the online petition says, “while increasing the possibility that more child predators, relying on the laxity of a judge who more readily sympathizes with the abuser than the abused, will prey on other children in the future.”

That this judge would make those kinds of statements, even if he was “fumbling” for the right words to explain his light sentence for Rambold, is troubling. We’re inclined to agree with protest organizer Sheena Rice, who led a rally outside the Yellowstone County Courthouse.

“He should have known better as a judge,” Rice said. “The fact that he said it makes me think he still believes it.”

Freudian slip or not, Baugh needs to do the honorable thing and resign.

(Frank Miele is managing editor of the Daily Inter Lake.)