HELENA, Mont., April 30 (UPI) -- A former teacher should spend at least four years behind bars for raping a student who later killed herself, the Montana Supreme Court said Wednesday.
The justices were critical of the judge who gave Stacey Dean Rambold a 15-year sentence -- and then suspended all but 31 days. The court, in an opinion handed down Friday and released Wednesday, said a new judge should be assigned for the re-sentencing.
Judge G. Todd Baugh, when he sentenced Rambold last year, suggested the victim, Cherice Morales, was "older than her chronological age." Morales was a 14-year-old freshman at Billings High School when she had sex with Rambold.
Baugh's finding that the teenager had some control in the relationship "is directly at odds with the law, which holds that a youth is incapable of consent and, therefore, lacks control over the situation whatsoever," the high court said.
"There is no basis in law for the court's distinction between the victim's 'chronological age' and the court's perception of maturity," the justices added.
Baugh's remarks and the short sentence ignited a firestorm of criticism in Montana and across the country. He responded by moving to increase the sentence a few days later but was blocked by the state Supreme Court.
Morales killed herself shortly before her 17th birthday.