Prosecutor seeks 10 years for teacher rapist

Student committed suicide while case was pending

By Matthew Brown
Associated Press

BILLINGS, Montana (AP) - A prosecutor is seeking 10 years in prison for a teacher who raped a 14-year-old student, after the Supreme Court rejected a one-month sentence from an earlier judge whose comments pinned some responsibility on the victim.

A re-sentencing hearing for 55-year-old Stacey Dean Rambold is scheduled for Friday before Judge Randal Spaulding. County Attorney Scott Twito said he'll ask for 20 years in state prison with 10 years suspended.

But in a memorandum with the court filed Tuesday, Rambold's attorney argued for a more lenient 15-year sentence to the Department of Corrections with all but two years suspended. Defense attorney Jay Lansing noted that Rambold has no prior criminal record and was ranked by the state as a low-risk sex offender.

A Department of Corrections sentence could potentially allow Rambold to serve his time in a pre-release center or similar community setting rather than prison.

The former Billings Senior High School teacher was 47 in 2007 when he raped freshman Cherice Moralez, a student in his business class.

She committed suicide while the case was pending. He served his 30 days under the original sentence last year at Montana State Prison and has since been free.

In Tuesday's court filing, Lansing urged Spaulding to review a pair of recorded interviews of Moralez conducted by law enforcement prior to her death.

District Judge G. Todd Baugh, who handled Rambold's original sentencing, referenced those interviews when he commented last year that Moralez appeared "older than her chronological age" and "was probably as much in control of the situation as the defendant." Rambold's attorneys also have suggested Moralez bore some responsibility.

Twito said he plans to call psychologist Brenda Roche to testify on what the interviews say about the victim's cognitive state. The recordings from 2008 and 2009 have not been publicly released.

"This is still a 14-year-old girl," Twito said Tuesday. "Children that age do not understand the consequences of their statements and their actions."

In a unanimous April ruling, the Supreme Court rejected Baugh's one-month sentence as illegal and ordered the case assigned to a new judge for re-sentencing. In their opinion, justices rejected the idea that Moralez' perceived maturity had any bearing on Rambold's punishment.

Under state law, children younger than 16 cannot consent to sexual intercourse.

Baugh plans to retire when his current term expires at the end of the year. In July, the Supreme Court publicly reprimanded the six-term judge, invoking a rarely-used censure to declare him guilty of misconduct in the case.

Spaulding, of Roundup, was named to the case after six other judges recused themselves.

Published: Thu, Sep 25, 2014