Both sides contest new hearing in controversial Montana rape case
BILLINGS, MT (CNN) – The judge who handed down a 30-day prison sentence for a Montana teacher after he raped a 14-year-old student wants to revisit the sentence Friday, but in a strange twist to an already odd case, the defense and prosecution agree: They don’t want another hearing.
The defense says the original sentence, in which all but 30 days of a 15-year sentence were suspended, was correct, while the prosecution says changing the sentence now could damage an ongoing appeal.
In a response filed Thursday with the Yellowstone County Court, defense attorney Jay Lansing joined prosecutors in saying that the new hearing would be “without legal authority.”
The judge scheduled the hearing after admitting that the sentence he imposed may have been against the law.
The case drew widespread attention when District Judge G. Todd Baugh imposed the 30-day sentence on Stacey Dean Rambold and made controversial comments about the victim, saying she “seemed older than her chronological age.”
Rambold admitted raping the girl while he was her teacher at her high school. Cherice Moralez took her life shortly before her 17th birthday.
In an order this week, the judge said it appears the mandatory minimum is two years, not 30 days. He said the court, “if necessary and appropriate,” would amend the sentence at Friday’s hearing.
Such a hearing, however, would “create confusion and uncertainty for all parties left to interpret and execute the sentence of Mr. Rambold,” Lansing argued.
He said his client contends the sentence imposed, which prosecutors are appealing, is lawful and appropriate.
Also Thursday, prosecutors filed an emergency petition with the Montana Supreme Court, asking it to stop the scheduled hearing.
While acknowledging “the district court’s effort to correct the error at the trial court level,” they wrote that the “only remedy prescribed by statute and case law is appeal before this Court.
“Further, the September 6 hearing, if permitted to be conducted, will undermine the State’s appeal and otherwise frustrate the just and orderly administration of ordinary appeal processes,” the petition read.
From Kyung Lah
CNN’s Miguel Marquez contributed to this report.
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