(CBS/AP) BILLINGS, Montana - The judge who drew national attention after he sentenced a man to just 30 days in jail for the rape of a 14-year-old girl may not be able to reverse the sentence as easily as he thought, reports CBS affiliate KTVQ.
Judge G. Todd Baugh planned to reconsider the sentence at a Friday hearing but the Montana Supreme Court granted a prosecution petition to cancel the hearing. Prosecutors argue the judge's "illegal" sentence - which they say falls below a mandatory minimum - can only be corrected through an appeals process.
On Aug. 26, Judge Baugh sentenced 54-year-old Stacey Dean Rambold to a month in jail, commenting that the 14-year-old victim was "older than her chronological age" and "as much in control of the situation" as Rambold, who admitted to raping the girl.
The girl killed herself in 2010 at age 16 as the case was pending, and her mother has said the teen's relationship with the former Billings Senior High School teacher was a "major factor" in her suicide.
Baugh sentenced Rambold to 15 years with all but 31 days suspended, and gave the former teacher credit for one day served. The judge later apologized for his comments at sentencing. More than 400 people called for Baugh's resignation during a protest last week, and an online petition for him to step down has drawn more than 56,000 signatures.
"My faith in the justice system is gone," the girl's mother, Auliea Hanlon, tearfully told CBS affiliate KTVQ.
The sentence came after Rambold, 54, was terminated from a sexual offender treatment program that was part of a deal to have his prosecution deferred. The girl's suicide left prosecutors without their main witness and led them to strike a deal with Rambold that allowed him to avoid prison unless he violated the terms of his court-ordered release.
The judge said he wasn't convinced that the reasons for Rambold's termination from the program were serious enough to warrant the 10-year prison term recommended by prosecutors. If the former teacher completed treatment and complied with other conditions, the case would have been closed.
Baugh later apologized for his comments. On Tuesday, he set a new hearing in the case, saying in a court filing that his ruling may have been illegal because the mandatory minimum sentence appeared to be two years.
However, Yellowstone County Attorney Scott Twito said Baugh may lack authority to impose a longer sentence at this point. That's because state law says an illegal sentence must be handled through the appeal process.
Twito echoed Rambold's statement that the state law appears to mandate a two-year minimum prison term for Rambold.
Despite the order to have the hearing vacated, Baugh entered the courtroom at 1:30 p.m. Friday, reviewing the case and going over key dates, KTVQ reports. He reportedly said the state supreme court would continue with the appeal and order what they see fit.
Baugh later addressed the media, reports the Billings Gazette. The judge said on Thursday, he signed a written judgment sentencing Rambold to 15 years with all but two suspended, which amounts to the legal minimum in the case.
However, he said he today withdrew the new sentence after receiving the order to vacate the hearing.