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July 2014 Archives

MontanaSupreme Court orders Judge to be suspended from the bench and a re-sentencing in the case where he gave a rapist 30 days in jail.

Montana judge to be censured over rape comments

HELENA, Mont. (AP) - The Montana Supreme Court on Tuesday will publicly reprimand a judge who gave a lenient sentence to a rapist after suggesting the 14-year-old victim shared some of the responsibility for the crime. District Judge G. Todd Baugh of Billings is scheduled to appear before the court in Helena, where one of the justices will read a censure statement prepared in advance. Baugh will likely get an opportunity to address the court, and the censure will then go into the record, state Supreme Court clerk Ed Smith said Monday.
The censure is a public declaration by the high court that a judge is guilty of misconduct.
"It's a process basically to publicly reprimand them for their conduct bringing dishonor on their position and the court's judicial system," Smith said.
The judge sent Stacey Dean Rambold to prison for just 30 days last year after he pleaded guilty to sexual intercourse without consent.
Rambold was a 47-year-old business teacher at Billings Senior High School at the time of the 2007 rape. The victim was one of his students. She committed suicide while the case was pending trial.
Baugh said during Rambold's sentencing in August that the teenager was "probably as much in control of the situation as the defendant" and that she "appeared older than her chronological age."
Under state law, children younger than 16 cannot consent to sexual intercourse.
After a public outcry, Baugh apologized for the comments and acknowledged the short prison sentence violated state law. He attempted retroactively to revise it but was blocked when the state filed its appeal.
The Supreme Court ordered Baugh to be censured on the recommendation of the Judicial Standards Commission, and also ordered him to be suspended for 31 days. Chief Justice Mike McGrath wrote in the order that Baugh had eroded confidence in the court system.
The last Montana judge was censured by the Supreme Court was District Judge Jeffrey Langton of Hamilton in 2005. Langton had pleaded guilty to a drunk-driving charge, then was placed on probation for violating the terms of his sentence.
Rambold has been free since last fall after serving the original sentence. After his release, Rambold registered as a sex offender and was to remain on probation through 2028.
Prosecutors appealed Baugh's sentence, and the Supreme Court in April ordered a new sentencing in the case by a different judge. The re-sentencing is to take place on Sept. 26 by District Judge Randal Spaulding of Roundup.
Baugh, who is the son of former Washington Redskins quarterback "Slingin'" Sammy Baugh, plans to retire when his term expires in December after three decades on the bench. 

The new Casey Anthony- Can the DA prove that Georgia dad intentionally left child in car??

No bond for Georgia dad accused of sexting while son in hot car The Georgia dad accused of intentionally leaving his 22-month-old son in a hot car had read articles about living a child-free life and was sexting with six women the day his son died of heat exposure, police said at a court hearing Thursday in which a judge denied bond and ordered the case to trial.
Justin Ross Harris, 33, also had two life insurance policies on his son, Cooper, and had twice watched a video about overheating deaths in cars before his son died June 18, according to police testimony given at a probable-cause hearing in Cobb County. After a more than a two-hour hearing, Judge Frank Cox found that prosecutors had presented enough evidence to try Harris for murder and second-degree child cruelty. Harris' attorney argued that his client had simply gotten distracted, and that prosecutors had only brought up the sexting to "publicly shame" Harris, who is married. Two of Harris' friends and his brother testified that he seemed to be a loving father, but none of them said they had known about Harris' sexual dalliances.
"We plan to show he wanted to lead a child-free life," Assistant District Attorney Chuck Boring told the judge in the case. "He's got this whole second life he's living with alternate personalities and alternate personas" with his sexual activities online, Boring said.
A Cobb County police detective in charge of the investigation, Phil Stoddard, testified that he also thinks Harris may have committed sexual exploitation of a minor by sending a photo of his penis to a 16- or 17-year-old girl who had sent him pictures of her breasts.
Officials said he'd also watched videos on Reddit of people getting killed, had looked search for Georgia laws on the age of consent and had searched for "how to survive prison." Harris left his son, Cooper, in an SUV in the parking lot at his workplace at Home Depot at 9:25 a.m. on a day where the temperature reached the upper 80s, police said.
Harris left work at 4:15 p.m. -- apparently to go watch "22 Jump Street" with friends -- and while driving to the theater, brought his car to a screeching halt near a strip mall and pulled his son's body out of the car, apparently in distress after discovering what he'd done.
"He seemed upset, his behavior was considered erratic, he would be yelling and screaming 'what have I done, my child is dead,' then he would stop with a blank look on his face," Stoddard testified, summing up witnesses' accounts. But during Thursday's court hearing, police said that that wasn't the first time Harris had gone back to his car since he arrived at work.
Police said surveillance video showed that after he got a ride to lunch with some friends, Harris went back to his car around mid-day to put light bulbs inside the car, where his son was strapped into a rear-facing car seat. As Harris walked away from the car, he hesitated as another man walked by Harris' car, police said. Officials also raised questions about how Harris could have driven almost two miles before noticing his son's body in the car. Police testified that Harris had not rolled down his windows after he got into his car and that they'd noticed a foul death smell in the vehicle as they examined it later. When Harris' wife, Leanna, arrived at the daycare center in the afternoon and discovered that her son had never been dropped off there, witnesses reported that she said, "Ross must have left him in the car," Stoddard said. When someone tried to comfort her and said there were "a thousand" reasons why he might not be at daycare, "She's like, 'no,'" Stoddard testified. Later, when police put the couple together in a police interview room, Harris got emotional, Stoddard said. "It was all about him: 'I can't believe this is happening to me, why am I being punished for this,'" Stoddard testified. "He talked about losing his job," and said, "'I'll be charged with a felony.'"
"She said, 'did you say too much?'" Stoddard testified. Leanna Harris is not charged with a crime. At her son's funeral, she told 250 mourners that she was not mad at her husband and said "Ross was and is a wonderful father," prompting applause from the mourners, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. Stoddard testified that Harris had apparently cheated on his wife. 

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