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Demonstration protests lenient sentence for rape in Billings, Mont.

Aug. 30, 2013 at 1:29 AM   |   Comments

BILLINGS, Mont., Aug. 30 (UPI) -- About 400 people gathered in Billings, Mont., Thursday to protest the lenient sentence given a teacher who raped a student who later killed herself.

Auliea Hanlon, the mother of the victim, Cherice Moralez, appeared briefly in front of the crowd in a park next to the Yellowstone County Courthouse, the Billings Gazette reported. She stood in front of the microphone without speaking.

District Court Judge G. Todd Baugh imposed a 15-year sentence Monday on Stacey Dean Rambold. But Baugh then suspended all but 30 days.

Baugh apologized Wednesday for saying that Cherice, who was 14 when she had a sexual relationship with Rambold, was mature for her age and had some control over the relationship. But he said he still believed his sentence was appropriate.

Protesters demanded Baugh resign.

"My goal is to make Billings the catalyst in change in how we talk about rape victims," said Sheena Rice, who helped organize the demonstration.

Hanlon in an interview with the Gazette described her daughter as a child who liked to read and listen to music but whose grades varied depending on her interest in a subject. She said Cherice's behavior turned "dark" and "evasive" during her freshman year at Senior High School in Billings, and it was only later she realized what had caused the change.

During the lengthy legal proceedings, Cherice never recovered her footing, Hanlon said, especially with rumors circulating at her school. She lived with her grandmother outside the city for a while and then returned to Billings, where she hung out with other dropouts.

Cherice took her own life shortly before her 17th birthday.

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