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Montana judge facing censure tied to rape case calls penalty unprecedented

By Laura Zuckerman

(Reuters) - A Montana judge facing suspension by the state's top court for implying a 14-year-old girl was partly to blame for her rape by a teacher and imposing an unlawfully lenient sentence in the case contends his punishment was unprecedented and suggests it be retracted.

State District Judge G. Todd Baugh is due to be censured by the Montana Supreme Court next month and faces a 31-day suspension after a judicial standards commission found he acted improperly by imposing a sentence of just 30 days against a former teacher convicted of raping his teenage student.

The Montana Judicial Standards Commission also found that Baugh undermined public confidence in judges by remarking last year that the victim, who killed herself before the case could be prosecuted, had been "as much in control of the situation" as her rapist.

Baugh said in documents filed this week with the Montana Supreme Court that he will submit to penalties it deems appropriate. But he said justices for the first time ordered a suspension when none was recommended by the judicial panel.

"Thus, I think, the imposition of suspension which was not recommended by the commission is unwarranted," he wrote, adding, "I will not object to you withdrawing the suspension."

The judge admitted responsibility for imposing a light jail term on Stacey Rambold for the 2007 sexual assault of Cherice Moralez. Baugh technically sentenced Rambold to 15 years in prison with all but 31 days suspended and credit for one day already served.

"The buck stops here and so I bear ultimate responsibility for that," Baugh wrote.

In seeking to shed light on his remarks about Moralez during Rambold's sentencing last year, Baugh said, "When I spoke those fatal words ... I suppose I was trying to describe the circumstances of this case."

Baugh’s courtroom commentary came under scrutiny again this week when he asked a fast-food worker why he could not get a "real job" in order to pay restitution to victims, court documents show.

(Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Will Dunham)

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