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Mont. court halts rape resentencing

BILLINGS, Mont. — Montana’s Supreme Court on Friday blocked a judge from resentencing a former teacher who got just 30 days in prison for raping a 14-year-old student, a sentence that was widely criticized after the judge said the victim was ‘‘older than her chronological age.’’

Justices said Judge G. Todd Baugh lacks authority to reconsider the sentence he gave former Billings teacher Stacey Rambold, 54.

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An appeal of the case already was pending, but Baugh had been seeking to possibly undo the sentence that was panned after his remarks. Baugh also commented that victim Cherice Moralez was ‘‘as much in control of the situation as was the defendant.’’

The girl committed suicide in 2010 while Rambold’s trial was pending. The attorney general’s office filed an emergency petition to stop the Friday afternoon hearing. Attorneys for the state had warned that holding it as planned could throw the case into disarray and ‘‘cause gross injustice to an orderly appeal.’’

Less than an hour before the hearing was set to begin, the high court ordered Baugh to cancel it and enter a written sentencing for Rambold.

Baugh appeared in his courtroom shortly after the hearing was scheduled to begin. He told a group of reporters and observers that he decided he could not resentence Rambold even before the Supreme Court intervened. The judge also seemed to affix some degree of blame for his original sentence to prosecutors, who he said did not raise objections until after the fact.

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