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Montana Rape Case Update: State prosecutors appeal 30-day sentence in case of teacher who raped student, 14

Protesters in Billings, Mont. on Thursday, Aug. 29 calling for the resignation of a judge who handed down a 30-day sentence in the case of a teacher who raped a student, who later committed suicide. KTVQ

(CBS/AP) BILLINGS, Montana - Montana state prosecutors filed an appeal on Wednesday with the Montana Supreme Court of a 30-day sentence handed down by judge G. Todd Baugh to a teacher in the rape of a 14-year-old student, CBS affiliate KTVQ reports.

Baugh drew national outrage when he sentenced the former teacher, Stacey Dean Rambold, Aug. 26, and commented that the teenage 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 called for Baugh's resignation during a protest last week, and an online petition for him to step down has drawn more than 45,000 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 until 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 a 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. 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 Atty. 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.

Montana Attorney General spokesman John Barnes said Baugh will be asked to cancel the Friday resentencing hearing in the case pending a decision on the appeal.

Court records show the sentence Baugh handed down was in line with what Rambold had requested.

Prosecutors have described his actions with the teen as the "ultimate violation" of the trust she had placed in him as a teacher.

Court documents show that Rambold and the girl had three sexual encounters - once at school, once in his car and a third time at his home. The relationship was still going on when authorities were notified in 2008 after the girl confided in her youth counselor, the court documents state.

"Law enforcement intervention ended the relationship, not the defendant," prosecutors said in an Aug. 23 sentencing memorandum.

Rambold has begun serving his monthlong term at the state prison in Deer Lodge.

Baugh, 71, was first elected to the bench in 1984 and has been re-elected every six years since without an opponent. He's up for re-election in 2014.

Baugh said in response to the criticism that followed his remarks that Rambold's sentence was based on the defendant's violation of an earlier deal he made with prosecutors, rather than the original crime. He also claimed that his remarks about the teen were "irrelevant" and did not factor into his sentence.

Complete coverage of the Montana rape case on Crimesider

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