Judge says he broke ethics code

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A Montana judge under fire for commenting that a 14-year-old rape victim appeared “older than her chronological age” said Tuesday that he deserves to be censured but not removed from the bench for the remarks.

District Judge G. Todd Baugh told The Associated Press the comments violated judicial ethics rules by failing to promote public confidence in the courts.

“I shouldn’t have said that … I don’t contest that appearance of impropriety,” he said during an interview in his chambers at the Yellowstone County Courthouse in Billings.

“I don’t think it’s appropriate to be removed,” he added.

The 72-year-old judge repeated his assertion that his comments did not factor into the 30-day sentence handed down in the case, and said he has no plans to resign in the face of formal complaints filed by advocates for rape victims.

Baugh sentenced former teacher Stacey Rambold in August for the 2007 rape of high school freshman Cherice Moralez, who killed herself before the case went to trial. Rambold, a former business teacher, was 47 at the time of the rape.

The office of Montana Attorney General Tim Fox has appealed Rambold’s sentence as illegal and too lenient. He remains free while the appeal is pending before the Montana Supreme Court.

The judge defended the sentence in a Nov. 13 letter to the Judicial Standards Commission, despite his earlier acknowledgements that it appeared to be illegal. He said his description of the sentence as fair referred to the full 15-year term, most of which he suspended.

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