Stacey Rambold, 54, left the Montana State Prison in Deer Lodge shortly before 10 a.m. after completing the sentence that has been widely criticized as too lenient. Rambold will be registered as a sex offender and will be on probation until 2028, state prisons spokeswoman Judy Beck told The Times.
Rambold was convicted of raping Cherice Moralez in 2007. Moralez committed suicide in 2010 and her mother has said that the rape was major factor in the girl taking her own life.
In sentencing Rambold, Judge Todd Baugh made comments about Moralez that sparked national outrage. The jurist said that the girl was “older than her chronological age” and “as much in control of the situation as was the defendant.”
Baugh later apologized, saying: “I made some really stupid remarks. It didn’t come out right and I owe the whole county, but maybe even the whole country, especially women, an apology.”
That apology has not eased the pressure on the judge, however.
Earlier this week, women’s advocates including the state chapter of National Organization for Women filed a complaint against Baugh and delivered petitions with 144,000 signatures along with the complaint to the state Judicial Standards Commission. The complaint asks that Baugh be removed from the bench “for his misconduct related to his handling of and speech about the rape case involving the sentencing of Stacey Rambold.”
In an interview with the Associated Press before Rambold was released, Moralez’s mother, Auliea Hanlon, said that man has managed to avoid what she considers to be justice.
“I figured he’d be fired, go to jail, and she would be vindicated, and that would be the end of it,” Hanlon said. “Instead, here it is six years later, still going on, and he’s getting out…. He’s still skating.”
Rambold acknowledged his actions in a 2010 deferred prosecution agreement made after Moralez killed herself. The agreement allowed Rambold to remain free for more than three years until he was kicked out of a sex offender treatment program for unauthorized visits with relatives’ children. At the time, Rambold was living in Billings and working for a technology company.
He was returned to court and sentenced as part of a new arrangement in August.
According to the current agreement in the case, Rambold must register as a level one sex offender, which means he must make his residence open to officers for home visits. He is barred from working with children, spokeswoman Beck said.
State officials are also asking Montana’s higher courts to send Rambold back to prison for a longer term. Prosecutors said Baugh’s lenient sentence was not allowed under a state law that requires Rambold to serve a mandatory minimum of two years in prison.
Hanlon said her focus remains on Rambold and the appeal of his sentence, which prosecutors said could take six to 18 months to work its way through the Montana Supreme Court.
With Rambold’s expected to return to the Billings area, Hanlon told the Associated Press that she would likely walk away if she encountered him now.
“I considered going down to the jail to forgive him, but I don’t know,” she said. “I’m still waiting for a sign from God.”