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Ex teacher freed after 30-day term for rape

Sep 26, 2013 - The Associated Press

BILLINGS, Mont. --Montana prison officials released a former high school teacher Thursday after he completed a 30-day sentence for rape that is under review by the state's high court and has prompted critics to call for the removal of the judge who oversaw the case.

Stacey Rambold, 54, left the Montana State Prison in Deer Lodge after serving the term handed down by District Judge G. Todd Baugh of Billings for the 2007 rape of 14-year-old Cherice Moralez.

The judge drew outrage last month over the leniency of the sentence and comments he made that appeared to pin some of the blame on Moralez.

State prosecutors are appealing the sentence, saying Rambold should have received a minimum of two years. But barring new offenses, the former teacher will stay out of prison pending the appeal.

Rambold was picked up at the prison by a family member and was expected to return to Billings, said prison spokeswoman Linda Moodry said. He's been registered as a level 1 sex offender --meaning he's considered a low risk to re-offend? and will remain on probation through 2028 unless the original sentence is overruled.

Moralez's mother, Auliea Hanlon, said Rambold's release shows he is "still skating" justice six years after he assaulted her daughter.

Tears streamed down Hanlon's face as she described the emotions that have at times overwhelmed her since a church counselor in whom Moralez confided first told Hanlon about the rape. Moralez committed suicide in 2010 before Rambold went to trial.

"I figured he'd be fired, go to jail, and she would be vindicated, and that would be the end of it," Hanlon said Wednesday. "Instead, here it is six years later, still going on, and he's getting out ... He's still skating."

Rambold's attorney, Jay Lansing, declined to comment on the defendant's release. Several friends and family members of Rambold also declined to comment.

In court documents and during the sentencing hearing, Lansing described his client as a one-time offender with no prior record who took responsibility for his actions when he admitted to a single count of rape under a 2010 deferred prosecution agreement that was made after Moralez killed herself.

Hanlon has said Rambold's actions were a "major factor" in the girl's suicide.

The agreement with prosecutors 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 and for not disclosing that he was in a sexual relationship with a Washington woman.

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