BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A former Montana high school teacher sent to prison for 30 days over the rape of one of his students could face more time behind bars after prosecutors appealed the case to the state Supreme Court.
Attorneys for the state and Yellowstone County say a minimum of two years in prison is mandated under state law for former Billings Senior High School teacher Stacey Rambold, 54. They could seek even more prison time for the defendant as the appeal proceeds.
The case garnered widespread attention after District Judge G. Todd Baugh said last week that the 14-year-old victim was "older than her chronological age."
Baugh's comments came at a hearing in which he gave Rambold 15 years in prison with all but a month suspended for his months-long sexual relationship with student Cherice Moralez, who committed suicide before the case went to trial.
Moralez's mother and many others, including Gov. Steve Bullock, condemned Baugh's remarks, and the judge has since scrambled to undo his actions.
Baugh said two days after the Aug. 26 hearing that his statements about Moralez were inappropriate. And earlier this week, he scheduled a resentencing hearing in the case for Friday.
In that order, the judge agreed with the state's determination that Rambold's original sentence conflicted with Montana law.
Prosecutors on Wednesday filed notice that they want the resentencing canceled so the appeal can proceed. Though Baugh's bid to resentence Rambold is "well-intentioned," Chief Deputy Yellowstone County Attorney Rod Souza wrote, the judge lacks the authority to take back his original sentence.
In a brief interview, Baugh said he would have no comment on the cancellation request, either publicly or through court filings, until he hears from Rambold's attorney.
"Right now it's still on the calendar," Baugh said of Friday's hearing. "I'll be there."
Rambold last week began serving his monthlong term at the state prison in Deer Lodge. It wasn't immediately clear if prosecutors would seek to keep him in custody pending the appeal. The case could take between six and 18 months to work its way through the state Supreme Court, attorneys involved said.
Moralez's mother, Auliea Hanlon, said through her attorney that she welcomed the appeal.
"She's pleased that the county attorney's office and attorney general's office understands that the most significant date to be considered in this sentencing is Cherice's birthday. She was 14," said Hanlon's attorney, Shane Colton.
Rambold's attorney, Jay Lansing, has not responded to repeated requests for comment on the case. His office said Wednesday he had no plans to do so.
Court documents and transcripts show Lansing sought a short sentence for his client based in part on Rambold's lack of prior criminal offenses other than a traffic ticket.
Lansing said the former business teacher accepted responsibility for his actions through a 2010 deferred prosecution agreement, in which Rambold admitted his guilt and agreed to seek treatment as a sex offender.
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